This Designer’s Clothes are Changing Lives in Africa
“I grew up in a really small town, living in a one-bedroom house with my grandma, my grandpa, my mom. My upbringing was quite humble, some might even say on the verge of North American poverty. Every year, around the same time, this white envelope of money would slip under our front door, and it was unmarked, there was never a note or an explanation, or a name or an address or anything attached to it. It was just a plain white envelope of money. And that money, I realized, was to help me and my mom through the year. As the years went by, that envelope kept coming. It wasn’t because somebody wanted any thanks, or recognition or praise back in return, they just did it because they wanted to help. The white envelope itself made me realize the type of person that I wanted to become. It made me want to make an impact in the lives of others to [how] that person made an impact in mine.”
At age 17, she started her first charitable foundation, ICA Canada, working with orphanages in Romania and Africa. “I’m the type of person that dives in and isn’t afraid to dive in. And I don’t even think through the hundred steps I need to do to get somewhere. I just dive in and go, okay, what’s my first step. It’s a great part of my personality, but also gets me in a little bit of trouble sometimes. When you first start out your charity, the biggest thing is just finding your direction…. I’ll tell you once you get there, and once you start it, there’s no turning back.”
Treana started a career in fashion in 2005 when she launched Obakki. As the fashion company grew and drew recognition, Treana recognized that it could be a good platform to draw attention and awareness to her philanthropic efforts on the other side of the world. “I was surprised at how big the fashion line became in terms of reputation or image. It made me realize that people tend to pay more attention to fashion designers, musicians, artists or people in the creative world.”
Peake’s leadership in fashion through her luxury brand Obakki has also received widespread acclaim through international publications such as Vogue UK and Elle, and her designs have been spotted on celebrity devotees such as Gwyneth Paltrow and Kate Hudson.
In 2009, Treana created the Obakki Foundation. It is a registered charity that focuses on providing clean water and education in Africa. “We have been able to drill or rehabilitate almost 2000 water wells, resulting in 2.5 million people having access to clean water….It’s put children in school, it’s allowed women opportunities to explore economic initiatives, it’s transformed villages. We’ve done 12 schools, multiple agricultural projects, built medical centers, help to relocate internally displaced people within their own country, and with the United Nations work in refugee camps.”
Treana feels like they are just getting started. “There is just so much more we can do. I have to get up every morning with a heart that’s full with that passion. And that determination and that drive and I have to see purpose in it….I’m not just thinking about a T-shirt, I’m thinking about lives that will change because of that T-shirt.”
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