We had the good fortune of connecting with Pauline Eveillard and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Pauline, we’d love to hear more about how you thought about starting your own business?
I started my business with the aim to celebrate and showcase Tunisian designers through the specialized and creative goods, foster mutual understanding between cultures, and offer a platform for Tunisians to share their creations with a broader audience. I had lived in Tunisia while on a Fulbright studying ancient Roman mosaics. In addition to the research there, I cemented life-long friendships and kept returning when I could. People often asked me where Tunisia is. I am surprised that this southern Mediterranean country right across from Italy, where on clear days you can see the island of Sicily, is not that well known. So I wanted to raise awareness of this country and its talented creatives who inspire me every day. Over the years, one product I would bring back as a gift was the Tunisian fouta, a versatile 100% cotton cloth. In 2009, while working at a full-time job, I started to import foutas and sell them through wholesale accounts and on my newly launched website. I realized the foutas weren’t enough, so in 2016, I left my job to rebrand the business into SOUKRA, expanding product offerings from home decor and apparel, to specialty food and a skincare line. In addition, SOUKRA offers educational programming through the website and email newsletter on everything from tips with tastemakers to neighborhood guides, recipes and designer interviews. For me, it was important to see a market for foutas first, and then branch out from there.
What should our readers know about your business?
Soukra aims to showcase creative and specialized goods from one country – Tunisia – and offer a platform for Tunisian designers to be exposed to a broader audience. The collections SOUKRA carries are the result of talented Tunisian designers collaborating with their country’s artisan communities. This might sound like a given, but design, whether in fashion or decor, has been Eurocentric for decades. When Western brands work with artisan communities in the Global South, the designers are still based in Europe and the United States. But I want to challenge that. When looking at the Global South, there are talented designers that are overlooked. I want to bring the same amount of attention to designers as there is on artisans, and have a platform that shows the creative collaboration between the two in Tunisia.
There has been a lot of shifting in they way I work between having two children and the global pandemic these past few years. I have two daughters under 5 years old, and this past summer, I made the decision to be home with them more. The business is demanding, but I aim to work more efficiently and smarter, blocking out time, declining invitations, and being more present in work when working, and being more present when with my kids.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
I studied art history, but also worked in historic preservation and have a love for urban spaces. Whenever I go to a city, I walk the streets to see how architecture intersects with the everyday lives of people, visit historic buildings, and always spend time in museums. Despite being a car city, I love to walk LA’s streets (within reason!).
There are so many LA guides, but for architecture fans who want to go off the beaten path, the Schindler House is tucked into a residential area of West Hollywood and worth it. Build in 1922, it is “the birthplace of the Southern California modernism we celebrate today” (https://www.makcenter.org/schindler-house). A visit takes you into a home made of wood, concrete and glass, originally built for communal living among two couples. And for those who like to shop and people watch, it’s not too far from Melrose and La Cienga.
LA has no shortage of art museums spanning ancient to contemporary art. Having studied the Roman Empire and Roman mosaics in Tunisia, an afternoon at the Getty Villa in Pacific Palisades is where I go for a peaceful afternoon looking at ancient Roman and Greek art housed in a re-created Roman villa.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
There are three sets of people that have helped me through the rollercoaster ride of starting, growing and maintaining SOUKRA. The first is my husband. Since starting a retail/ecommerce business, he has been supportive of the business, from stamping bags with the logo for the first trunk shows, to being there for emotional support during the highs and lows. My peers and friends have been a source of inspiration, whether fellow female small business owners, or friends who share the SOUKRA love with their networks. Lastly but most importantly, my mother. From childhood, she has taught me to have integrity at work, to live with an open heart and mind, and be a loving mother.
Photo with bangs photo credit (Emily Dulla) Photo with blue culotte jeans (Hillary Jeanne)