When I think of fashion with a greater purpose, there is quite a number of brands that spring into my mind. But there are very few of these that are transparent enough to gain my undivided trust and lighten my heart at the thought that they are indeed engaged in doing good. Obakki is at the forefront of these selected few. Treana Peake is the founder and creative director of the Vancouver-based fashion line and for years I have been admiring her beautiful design work, her clean, classic styles that effortlessly translate into staples for the everyday. But Obakki was also innovatively designed to bring the fashion world closer to people and to their real stories.
Through Obakki, which was founded in 2005, Treana started The Obakki Foundation in 2009, a humanitarian effort to help communities in Africa, focusing on providing clean water and education. 345 million people in Africa live without water and many children can’t attend school because they’re in search of water or are ill as a result of water borne ailments, diminishing future opportunities for growth through education. To date, the Obakki Foundation has provided over 700 water wells and built 12 schools in South Sudan and Cameroon, positively impacting the lives of over 750,000 people, and this support subsequently leads to self-sustainable growth in those communities. A creative mind, avid traveller and leading humanitarian, Treana is my guest of honour today.
It all began with a white envelope of money. Watch the moving story behind the Obakki Foundation:
Through its philanthropic counterpart, the Obakki Foundation, your company, Obakki, admirably uses fashion to generate funds and awareness in order to provide clean water and education for communities in urgent need in Africa. What is the most challenging part of being a socially conscious fashion designer?
The most challenging part is continually jumping between the two juxtaposed worlds. Some mornings I am developing strategies to support the emergency crisis situation in South Sudan, and in the afternoon I’m designing pieces for our new Obakki collection. One supports the other and ultimately that is what drives the passion at the end of the day.
You are an inspiration for design with a purpose. But who and/or what inspires you? Is there anyone in particular who has significantly influenced your life and your work?
I am constantly inspired and influenced by the strong individuals I meet on the ground in these remote regions of the world where our water projects are implemented. I’m on the ground a lot in the villages we support and it is the faces of these real people that pop into my head when I’m at home designing. I do what I do for them and for no other reason.
Scarves for Water. For every 500 scarves sold, a water well is built in Africa. Each scarf is packaged with tags and material about Obakki Foundation’s programs for clean water and information about the community that will benefit from your purchase.
Who do you design for? Who is the Obakki woman?
The Obakki woman is a strong, independent woman who seeks out contemporary clothing that is both modern and effortless.
What was the inspiration behind your Spring/Summer 2015 collection?
Spring / Summer ’15 inspiration came about as I was taking my family to visit the Himba tribe – an indigenous tribe found in the remote regions of northern Namibia. As we flew over the Namib Desert I was entranced by the weaving landscape textures found below us. I incorporated my photography into the collection – featuring digital prints taken while on the trip.
Is there any piece in your collections you hold most dear to your heart?
While I have a lot of favorite pieces each season (from a personal style perspective), it is the pieces that tell a story that I hold most dear to my heart. I use fashion as a platform for change & in all of my collections I try to bring a piece of someone else’s story into the garments.
Obakki Spring/Summer 2015 collection
Which is the most valuable lesson you’ve learned from Africa?
I was taught as a young child (through my white envelope experience) to give without expecting anything in return. Africa has simply reinforced & solidified this life lesson for me as I continually see the exponential results / influence our actions can have when given from a place of absolute kindness, without expecting anything back in return. Something magical happens between people when given a gift that doesn’t have any strings attached.
How do customers feel about buying something that has some good attached to it? Have you sensed a change of mentality? Are customers becoming more socially conscious, too?
I believe people are tired of not knowing where their money is going on the charity side, and that people are wanting that extra layer of connectivity and social responsibility on the fashion side. Our customers come to us for both.
100%of donations received by Obakki Foundation go directly to their clean water projects across the world.
You wish people appreciated more:
I wish people would appreciate (or even notice) the power of their own actions. Sometimes you see an immediate influence and sometimes you don’t, but just because you can’t see it, doesn’t mean it isn’t there. Someone donated every year (anonymously) to my family, teaching me what it is like to give without ever expecting anything back in return. That small, yet incredibly meaningful action influenced my life so that now I am able to influence others. I bet that person has no idea that their selfless act of kindness has led to over 700 water wells in South Sudan with over 750,000 people affected. Our actions can and do create change, we just don’t always get to see it.
Your favourite moment of the day.
Lying in bed at the end of the day with my kids, husband and dog. They ground me, support me and inspire me everyday to be better. Not just for our family, but for the world in general.
A little over a year ago the village of Malith had no water. Watch how water has impacted Malith and brought change to their lives.
photos: Obakki / The Obakki Foundation / Facebook/ObakkiFoundation / Facebook/Obakki