Oh man, do I need to get myself back to India again (if anyone at the tourist board is reading…).
If like me you lust after the aesthetic of Indian design – all that colour, Bollywood movies and posters – and vintage packaging, it’s probably time you discovered a wonderful book I found on my morning ramble around Instagram, dedicated entirely to the art of Indian matchbox labels. Straightforwardly named Matchbook: Indian Matchbox Labels, it’s so good, in fact, I’m going to call it the Ellie & Co., Inc. ‘book of the week’.
There are over 1000 labels in author Shahid Datawala’s collection which started the day he spotted New Ship matches sold alongside obvious imitators – New Shape and New Skip – in his local Panwallah (tobacco shop) in Delhi. Over the next few months he gathered at least 10 variations, dreaming of the ultimate… Yep, you guessed it: New Sh*t, which he eventually found lying on the pavement on a walk down the street in Delhi one day!
“For the next few years, I visited hundreds of Panwallahs in Delhi, and in every city and small town I travelled to, looking for the popular matchbox brands. Every time I walked down the street, my eyes would be casting around for old matchboxes – outside railway stations, offices, restaurants and tea stalls. A large part of my collection – now over a thousand labels – comes from findings on the street.”
Curious, funny and visually striking, these labels come in so many designs and ‘fakes’ are an accepted part of the matchbox world. I could flick through this book for hours, staring at every little detail, but here are a few favourites:
Buy Matchbook: Indian Matchbox Labels, here.