Vancouver fashion designer has passion for Africa

Treana Peakes interest in helping others began in childhood.

I was one of those kids that would watch World Vision commercials instead of cartoons, said Peake, creative director of Obakki Designs and founder of the Obakki Foundation.

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Peake penned and produced a play to raise money for orphanages in Romania as a high school student and organized concerts and events to benefit her town of 3,000 in Hanna, Alta.

She travelled to Africa at age 18 and has returned up to 20 times.

Now the 39-year-old heads the Vancouver-based Obakki fashion design company and foundation, stitching together her passion for development work with her passion for fashion.

Shell talk about her work at CreativeMornings/Vancouver, Feb. 1.

The self-taught fashion designer started Obakki Designs in 2005 and carried out philanthropy work on the side.

On a return flight from a fabric show in Paris, Peake realized she needed to make her inspiration more central so she founded the Obakki Foundation.

When Im in the field in South Sudan or Im in Africa, I am moved by what Im experiencing Thats where my passion comes from; its from real life moments and real life causes, she said. For me, creativity isnt something that you make up or that you can really learn, creativity is something that you feel, and so its putting your passion, your emotion into something creative.

Fashionistas learn about the work of foundation through Obakkis website, social media and products.

Fashions really one of the platforms for me to tell the story and to expose people to things that are going on in the world in a way that wont overwhelm them or deter them from becoming involved, Peake said. If I can bring people another angle of things that are happening in the world then thats my main objective, is just use these creative platforms to tell as story.

One hundred per cent of net profits generated from Obakki sales and one hundred per cent of public donations go to humanitarian projects.

Obakkis high-end designs last season were inspired by South Sudan, where Obakki Foundation built 300 wells with the help of the government, the United Nations and other non-governmental organizations.

To be there seeing dry, cracked, barren land and then come back four months later to see a healthy, happy community with thriving gardens and kids in school [because they no longer need to collect water] is pretty rewarding, Peake said.

Obakki previously built 12 schools in Cameroon.

The company has been developing lower cost products so more shoppers can buy items that benefit communities in Africa.

CreativeMornings is a monthly breakfast lecture series for creative types started in New York by the founder of the design blog and studio swissmiss. The event is free of charge and includes a 20-minute talk, group discussion and question and answer session. The Vancouver chapter of CreativeMornings is run by Mark Busse, co-founder and design director of a brand strategy and communication design firm Industrial Brand, host of Interesting Vancouver and a member of the Mayors Engaged City Taskforce. CreativeMornings/Vancouver runs from 8:30 to 10 a.m. in the Woodwards atrium, 111 West Hastings St. For more information, see

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