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“Jungle Book” fabric designed by Tasneem Amiruddin in a Mumbai taxi interior (all images courtesy Taxi Fabric)

With a population of over 20 million in its metropolitan area, Mumbai is one of the biggest cities in the world, and taxis are integral to its transportation. Five of the over 50,000 taxis operating in the city area were recently reupholstered with fabrics created by local, emerging designers.

Taxi Fabric was started by designer Sanket Avlani, and the initiative is currently fundraising on Kickstarter to transform another 25 taxis. Until this campaign, it’s been a self-funded project, offering a showcase for designers in a city where those opportunities are limited. As the crowdfunding page states, design “can often be taken for granted in India,” and the taxi interiors invite thousands of people to experience the impact of design in the four to five months each interior is on the streets.

“You and I” design by Pranita Kocharekar

“Number Game” designed by Sanket Avlani

Mumbai taxis are frequently individualized, with eye-catching typography and drivers’ personal curios adorning the interiors, while upholstery is often just functional. Taxi Fabric connects young designers with drivers to collaborate on the fabrics, installed free of charge, which act as visual narratives on the city. For example, Avlani’s own “Number Game” celebrates the dabbawallas who make deliveries around the city with a vibrant pattern of dabba carriers, referencing the color system utilized for identifying zones of Mumbai. Pranita Kocharekar’s “You & I” has people from the cityscape frozen in motion, some animated in two-dimensional still frames as they walk. Each interior includes a label with the artist’s name, story of their design, and how to get in touch.

Similar to the Bibliotaxi in São Paulo, Brazil, which enlisted taxis as mobile libraries that facilitate book exchanges with seat back holders, Taxi Fabric is interested in how this existing transportation space can be a greater part of the community. The fabrics enliven the interiors, making taxis stand out for the drivers, and travelers can experience how design transforms even something as utilitarian as a seat covering in a car.

“Cutting” designed by GauravOgale

“Number Game” designed by Sanket Avlani

“From a Taxi Window” designed by Lokesh Karekar

Taxi Fabric is fundraising on Kickstarter through August 11 . 

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Allison Meier

Allison C. Meier is a former staff writer for Hyperallergic. Originally from Oklahoma, she has been covering visual culture and overlooked history for print...