In India, Mumbai taxis are almost as iconic as New York yellow cabs and London black cabs. They’re partially black, partially yellow, and make up an important part the of the city’s landscape. But what makes them special, is their colorful interiors – their drivers pick the fabrics themselves, giving each taxi a distinct look.
When Sanket Avlani, a designer at Wieden & Kennedy, saw these interiors, he realized a lot of creatives would be thrilled to have a go at the design. And so, Taxi Fabric was born. With three others, he made five prototypes, put everything on Kickstarter and got funded. Now, every interior is designed by a different creative. The project is funded by brands, foundations and NGO’s (amongst them Google India) and it has brought about more than 60 unique design collaborations so far.
The fabrics are unique, super vibrant and always tell a story. For example, designer Safomasi, who has merged art deco motifs with Mumbai-specific elements to celebrate the city’s diverse and vibrant energy. Pragun made Delhi Belly, which depicts delicious street food specialties of the city’s Chandi Chowk area.
“Every city has a different aesthetic. We like to take the culture of the area, put it in the fabric and let it travel,” Sanket explains. Currently the organization operates in Mumbai and Delhi, but looks forward to expand to other cities.
A designer gets to work about three to four weeks on his piece, while the production is handled by Taxi Fabric and their vendors. The biggest challenge is probably making something that appeals to a wide diversity of people. “It’s literally all layers of society that take taxis, and it’s a challenge to make something really simple and visual that’s easy to communicate.”
One of Taxi Fabric’s goals is to put a spotlight on India’s design community, as it doesn’t always receive the appreciation it deserves. It can be hard to convince people the profession is worth investing in. “It’s all very functional, design is not looked at as a differentiator,” says Sanket.
And so recently Taxi Fabric started to do workshops, mostly with college students. “There is a lot of upcoming design talent in India, and by giving their work a platform, we initiate interaction between them,” Sanket explains.
And although it is a difficult process changing design’s standing in India, the vibrant interiors definitely open up a conversation about it. And that’s exactly what the initiators intended with the project, brightening up the cities’ surroundings along the way.