INTERVIEW: Treana Peake, Creative Director for Obakki

Saturday, November 15, 2014

A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to sit down with Treana Peake, the Creative Director/Fashion Designer behind the label Obakki. Treana was in town to host a trunk show for Obakki at one of my favorite Houston boutiques; Julie Rhodes Fashion & Home. I was invited out to meet the designer and interview her! I of course accepted and I'm happy to share the interview and photos from the trunk show with you below: 

First and foremost I have to know what Obakki stands for? 
Oh, it doesn't mean anything. When I was opening the company I was looking for one word that had zero Google hits to it. When I typed in Obakki it had zero hits so I found a word that could become my own company and make it my own instead of choosing a word that has many other meanings, layers or connotations to it; this one had none. 

Cool! So basically, you just put letters together?  
No. I was studying Japanese at the time and Obakki stemmed from the Japanese word, O-B-A-K-E that actually means an apparition or a ghost or constantly involving. It doesn't really relate to the Japanese word though. 

Such a creative way to come up with a name! I'll have to keep that in mind for when I'm creating something new! Have you always wanted to be a designer or is it something that you evolved into?
I think I'm more of a creative person than a fashion person. To me, it’s all about creativity and I've always been a creative person. I was looking for ways to express my creativity. I'm not the type of person that likes to see the same things all the time. Fashion, for me, was constantly evolving and there were no real rules or boundaries to where you could take your creativity; it appealed to me. 

Well speaking of creativity, how do you keep your designs fresh season after season? 
Inspiration comes from different places. I spent the early years of my design career chasing inspiration; trying to find out what was going on in the industry at that time. When you reach that point it really doesn't inspire you as a designer. When you stop trying to impress everybody and stop trying to chase the trends you're able to design what you like and what you feel and make it the Obakki woman and wrap it in that Obakki package. Inspiration can come from the craziest things to my adventures in Africa. They span a really wide gap. Inspiration comes from everywhere and I am constantly inspired in my daily life and the things that I do. 

I love that your designs are true to your design aesthetic and who you feel the Obakki woman is. I can’t imagine designing something just because it's a "trend".
Well, I do address some of the trends through colors of the season or fabrics, but I'm not going to try and pretend to be something I'm not or try to force it. 

Well it appears that your approach is working and has been really successful for you! Congratulations! 
Thank you! 

The collection we're viewing here tonight, is this your Fall/Winter 14 collection? 
We brought our classic collection, which has pieces that sell season after season. We have the Obakki classic line and we have a little bit of Fall. Fall is more about the staple, classic pieces  that women want to have in their closets season after season. We thought it would be a good one for Houston because Houston really appreciates luxury fabrics and attention to detail. 

I'm from up north and while I hate being cold, I do miss being able to wear my Fall fashions, but we do have our cold fronts every now and then! 
Yes. I can not live in a place that doesn't go through all the seasons. I'm inspired as the weather changes and the leaves start to change color. I can wear my big sweaters and I love that. I love the seasons! Vancouver doesn't have extreme seasons, we may get snow once a year, if we're lucky, but once you get into other parts of Canada they have extreme seasons.


I know your fashion label gives back to charity. Can you tell me more about that and the mission?
I have Obakki which is the fashion company and then I have Obakki foundation. Obakki covers 100% of all the administrative fees of the foundation so every donation goes 100% to the project. Not a dime of anyone’s donation is spent on websites, videos, staff wages or travel costs, absolutely nothing. We drill water wells in Africa, starting in communities. With the water wells we have seen a decrease in diseases and an increase in school enrollment. Everything really does begin with water. It’s been a really amazing journey. We have drilled close to one-hundred water wells in schools. After the community gets water we go in and monitor and evaluate where the community is at.

What inspired you to take the Obakki brand and use it to create the Obakki foundation?
I've traveled to Africa 50 or 60 times (laughs) since I was eighteen years old. I would go multiple times a year. I've been doing this since I was in grade school. As my fashion brand started to gain some momentum and I started to build a name for Obakki I saw this as a great way to use that name to draw attention to the other work I was doing. 

So technically, the philanthropy came first! That's great that you were able to then turn your drive for creativity into additional resources for the foundation! Well back to the collection, we were chatting about your use of colors and luxury fabrics, can you tell me more about the colors you have in your classic line?
They are classic colors so there’s a lot of grays, browns, black and navy. In the Fall collection there's more greens, burgundies and wines.
Where is home based for Obakki?
We live in Vancouver which is where we have our design studio but we are sold in many boutiques around the world. 

From Vancouver to Houston! How long is that trip?
It’s not too bad, it’s around four hours. 

That's not too bad at all! I thought it would be a longer flight! Is Julie Rhodes your first boutique in Houston?
We tend to partner with a lot of boutiques so I am very bad at knowing all of them (laughs) that’s definitely a question for my sales team! We were excited to come down and do this trunk show and I wanted to specifically fly here to attend this one. 

What was it about Julie Rhodes that made you want to have your clothes sold here and be here for this trunk show? 
Julie is really good at knowing her customer and knowing what her customer wants. I love working with retailers that get that. For her, it’s not just a store where you put up some product and hope it sells. She really pays attention to what her customer wants and I really value that. I see our relationship with all of our retailers as a partnership and she understands her customer. The collection is quite large so I can take out a little section that’s good for her customer. She just really get’s it, she knows what a Houston woman wants.

You mentioned you have a sales team; in general how big is your company? 
The extended team is large but it’s just me in design so I do everything there. I have pattern makers and a production team and then the front end office staff, so maybe 25 employees? We also have our field staff.

Do you do all of the designs your self or do you have team?
It’s all me! 

Do you solely design clothes or do you create accessories as well? 
I used to do a lot of accessories, but time just started to get away from me. It was difficult to do the bags and everything else, but I do love accessories. I do design scarves for the Obakki foundation but for the most part we just do clothing. 

Do you have any tips for emerging designers?
We run a lot of interns and design students through our design studio. Students, when they graduate, want to design what they see in their head. It can be quite extreme. I think that's good because that gives you the edge and that flare and starts to individualize you as a specific designer, but you have to really be able to analyze the market and the consumer and know what sells. You can be the best designer in the world but if nothing sells thennnn (laughs). You have to find that balance  between what defines you and your brand and knowing what is going to sell. 

Julie's dog wanted to be featured, so I snapped his photo as well! 
Treana with Julie (Left)

Thank you so much to Julie Rhodes, her team, and Treana for providing me with this interview opportunity!


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