Imagine sliding into a taxi and realizing, once you settle down, that you are sitting on top of a bright blue landscape with carefully painted horses leaping across the seat. In front of you, the blue background continues behind a group of faceless figures. Two of them hold an unfurling piece of fabric that reads ‘Quit India.’ The ceiling scene is depicted in the style of ancient frescoes. As you take in all the little details of the design, you almost forget that you are riding in a cab. You almost forget your original destination.
This is the experience of riding in a cab transformed by Taxi Fabric. The organization pairs talented designers with taxi drivers in Mumbai to turn the interior of cabs into works like Kunel Gaur’s intricate “A Century of Revolt.”
“Taxis in India, particularly in Mumbai, are not only the most convenient form of transport but have also become an iconic piece of culture,” Nathalie Gordon of Taxi Fabric tells The Creators Project. “Although a lot of attention is given to each taxi by its driver, to make it stand out from his competitors, very little thought is given to the fabric used on the seats. The designs that cover the taxi seats are often dull and forgettable. And with the design talent Mumbai has to offer, this shouldn’t be the case.”
Yet, according to the team, design does not always receive the legitimacy or attention it deserves in India. Older generations especially seem to struggle with the concept of design as something with the potential to create a real impact.
Taxi Fabric serves as the perfect meeting point between these two spheres. Taxis get makeovers while designers get exposure. Riders and drivers can experience the difference that design makes. Even viewing the photos online gives viewers an idea of the intricacy of each design. Each project comes with a specific name and the aesthetic of every designer ranges significantly, making no two taxis the same.
Each vehicle includes an “identity label” that includes the name of the designer and information on how to reach him/her. The Taxi Fabric team corresponds with designers, advising them but ultimately allowing them to create their own visions. The design then goes to a printing center in Lalbaug and fitters in Khar.
Gordon explains that word about the taxis has spread quickly, with many taxi drivers coming to the organization to request makeovers of their vehicles. The designs transform an average taxi into a visual playground — something that greatly benefits taxi drivers who report that riders often give them larger tips or stay in the taxi longer than usual. Sometimes the designs can also change the way that drivers view their own vehicles.
“We've just refitted another auto-rickshaw with a TaxiFabric design and the driver commented that it made him feel like he had just bought a new rickshaw,” wrote Gordon. “There's a lot of power in giving someone's livelihood a new lease of life in that way.”
The team behind Taxi Fabric has also become involved in other projects that make an impact. They recently collaborated with TEDxGateway to create a series of five designs.
“The TEDx Collaboration is focussed on working with designers who have spent their time developing communication for social good,” writes Sanket Avalani, Art Director at Taxi Fabric. “From illustrating the Indian Sign language to working with Students with Special Needs to design a Taxi Fabric, we have started meaningful conversations through our Taxi Fabrics.”
Recently, Taxi Fabric was featured in Coldplay’s music video for “Hymn for the Weekend” featuring Beyoncé. Lead singer Chris Martin can be seen riding a taxi designed by Samya Arfi. Her design, “Monad,” depicts portrays India and Pakistan as twins separated at birth. The design is based on “hand gestures and geometric patterns common or unique to both cultures,” as Arfi explains on Taxi Fabric’s website.
The placement of a taxi in the music video will surely gain the organization even more exposure. The team has other projects on its horizon — but these are under wraps for now.
“It's a bit of a secret really,” wrote Gordon. “Let's just say, we're not stopping or slowing down any time soon!”
To learn more about Taxi Fabric, click here.