In Mumbai, the most populous city in India, competition for customers among taxicab drivers is fierce. The Taxi Fabric project, the brainchild of a group of local artists and fabric designers, is setting out to give some drivers a competitive edge with a collection of ornate woven fabrics to adorn the inside of their cars.
"There are 21 million people in Mumbai and the taxi's their most convenient form of transport," Design Fabric explained in their Kickstarter video. "It's funny; all the taxi drivers are trying to do is outshine each other with a more attractive taxi."
Mumbai received its first fleet of black and yellow Fiat taxis back in 1911. The iconic yellow vehicles have since become an integral part of the city's aesthetic and being associated with is bustling downtown. In recent years, though, the number of taxis surging their way through Mumbai's congested streets has declined sharply.
In the past 10 years, nearly 10,000 people have walked away from driving taxis, creating a chronic shortage of reliable transportation within the city. Older generations of drivers are retiring, and younger generations find themselves drawn to other professions—professions like designing.
"The older generations take design for granted in India," said Fabric Design. "Most of them don't understand it or recognize it as a proper profession or something worth studying. Design to them just performs a function."
Though the overall number of taxis in Mumbai is down, competition for customers is still fierce between drivers. One of the key elements to maintaining a competitive edge is to simply make your cab stand out aesthetically. Taxi Fabric's goal was to connect young designers to taxicab drivers who could mutually benefit one another over art and economics.
After successfully hitting their Kickstarter goal, Taxi Fabric began reaching out to drivers working in Mumbai to see if they were interested in adorning their vehicles in custom tapestries.
Each taxi cab cover tells a story about Indian—or in some cases Pakistani—culture that's personal to the artist. The designers benefit from having their work seen by dozens, if not hundreds of cab riders. Drivers benefit from the extra business they draw from setting themselves apart.
"I based my designs on the idea that Indians and Pakistanis are essentially the same people," designer Samia Arif explained in Taxi Fabric's blog. "[We come] from similar roots and [focus] on our commonalities and unique characteristics at the same time.”
Over the next five months, Taxi Fabric plans on redesigning the interiors of 30 more cars throughout the city and hopes to expand the number of artists and cab drivers participating in the project.