International Women's Day: EVOKE London

Q&A with Leonora Swanepoel, Vandana and Sridhar Poddar, co-founders of EVOKE London.

Tell us about your role and your business…

EVOKE London is a concept store that came about through a cross-continental friendship between Vandana Poddar (co-founder along with her son, Sridhar) and Leonora Stathakis (head of curation and design). Our instant bond over stories of travel, culture and aesthetics was the seed for EVOKE. 

As much as EVOKE is guided by the vision and design sensibilities of Leo, Vandana and Sridhar, it is also a product of the trust of the artisans who share their work and bring the collection to life. Whilst the emphasis is on presenting beautiful handmade objects of the highest quality, equally important is platforming the stories of the makers in a respectful way – to share their significance and context. 

EVOKE London particularly values the work of women artisans. We work with several tremendously skilled women - individual artisans and women-led artisanal enterprises - across Africa and India. As a business founded on the friendship between two women, we are drawn to women makers and enterprises that have found strength and empowerment through craft.  

What does International Women’s Day and this year's theme ‘Break the Bias’ mean to you?

This is an extremely resonant theme for us since our work is so closely connected to communities in Africa and India where gender biases continue to be deeply enmeshed in the societal structure. For us, ‘breaking the bias’ is an active gesture that is done by consciously supporting initiatives that create economic empowerment for women. In our experience, craft is a powerful source of empowerment – most women in traditional communities already carry exceptional craft skills, shared by mothers, aunts and grandmothers in informal settings. With a little support and the opportunity to share their hand-crafted pieces with the world, women find economic and social agency and can break the cycles of biases and discrimination, for themselves and for their children. Seeking out and supporting those who are working to ‘break the bias’ is our way of being allies to the cause and effecting change, in our small, quiet way. 

What do you love most about being positioned in Marylebone Village?

We love the eclectic design sensibilities of Marylebone Village. The village seems to encourage independent and emerging brands such as ours. We’ve found working with Howard de Walden very supporting and are grateful for their trust in us. At the same time, the landlords still went through a vetting process, ensuring that their curation of stores is top-notch. So really, it’s a wonderful place for eclectic businesses to meet with a vibrant community of customers.