The Eye

The Insides of Mumbai’s Taxis Are As Colorful As the Views From Their Windows

Indian designer Kunel Gaur’s taxi fabric ceiling fresco, “A Century of Revolt,” is inspired by the history of a young India’s struggle for freedom.

Courtesy of Taxi Fabric

Design is everywhere, but it’s often invisible, like the nondescript fabric on a taxi seat. Now a group of designers in Mumbai, India, have turned the interiors of city taxis into a vehicle for promoting the country’s emerging design talent with a project they’re calling Taxi Fabric.

“Chowpatty” taxi fabric, by graphic designer Shweta Malhotra (right), is inspired by memories of Mumbai’s Chowpatty Beach.

Photos by Sandesh Parulkar

“Taxis in India, particularly in Mumbai, are not only the most convenient form of transport but have also become an iconic piece of culture,” the designers write in a press release about the project. Although drivers routinely tailor their taxi interiors to make them stand out from competitors, the designers say, the upholstery on seats is often an afterthought, something drivers pick up at the local market, usually “dull and forgettable.”

So Taxi Fabric decided to commission young designers to create bespoke fabrics for the insides of the Mumbai’s taxis that reflect the city’s life and culture. Each revamped taxi includes a label with the story of the design and contact information for the designer.

Taxi fabric designed by Indian illustrator and visual artist Sameer Kulavoor.


Photos by Jimeet Pawaskar  

According to the folks at Taxi Fabric, Indian parents don’t want their children to grow up to be designers.

“Design, as a profession or even simply something studied at school, is unfortunately not widely recognised in India,” they write. “Older generations don’t understand it, design to them, just performs a function. They don’t know it can create an impact. And with so few spaces for young people to show off their skills, it’s hard to change that perception.”

Pakistani designer Samya Arif says her taxi fabric design is based on the similarities between Indians and Pakistanis.

Courtesy of Taxi Fabric

The group has outfitted 10 different taxi fabrics in cabs currently picking up fares in Mumbai, and thanks to a recently well-funded Kickstarter campaign, they plan to make 25 more by the end of the year, for a start.

Artist and graphic designer Pranita Kocharekar’s fabric depicts the hustle and bustle of city life. She describes the backs of the front seats as “a two-dimensional still animation o ;people walking.”

Courtesy of Taxi Fabric

Typographer and designer Pavithra Dikshit’s taxi fabric is inspired by the flora and fauna in Bombay. “The feet on the driver door are a sign of worship and keeping in touch with Mother Earth that you walk on,” she says.

Photo by Aashim Tyagi

Art director and designer Sanket Avlani’s design was inspired by Mumbai’s lunchbox-carrying dabbawallas.

Courtesy of Taxi Fabric

This design by graphic designer and illustrator Gaurav Ogale features a ceiling of pigeons and was inspired by the taxi driver Nasimuddin Chacha.  

Photo by Sushant Kadam