Picture an evening fashion show in a historic church. Hundreds of industry insiders, media and label fans are seated in the pews. A catwalk runs down the aisle. Dozens of lit candles flicker at the altar. The show begins with an artful short film and ends with a speech by the creative director, who explains that all proceeds from the evening are going to the label's philanthropic foundation. Something like this would be par for the course coming from a major designer in New York or London.
Obakki Sets its Sights on the World
by LISA WONG
But for Obakki, their candlelit Fall/Winter 2011 show at St. Andrews-Wesley United Church is a harbinger of how far the homegrown design collective has come. Since 2005, Obakki's list of successes grows longer every year. Over 115 North American retailers stock Obakki's pieces, including Shopbop.com, Nordstrom and Saks Fifth Avenue. Recent press coverage from Vogue UK, Elle US and InStyle has raised the Vancouver label's global profile. Yet despite the accolades, Obakki remains true to its roots. "What's most exciting is the amazing response from our supporters and customers," says creative director Treana Peake. "It's something to be proud of when your loyal fans show their commitment to the brand."
Obakki's own commitment to its effortlessly cool aesthetic goes a long way in retaining that fan loyalty. For Spring/Summer 2011, the inspiration was sunshine and music festivals. Think loose draping, neutral colours and fuss-free styling suited to beach bonfires and camping trips, and easy-to-layer pieces that will take you "from Coachella to Glastonbury." By contrast, Fall/Winter 2011 feels like a modern spin on Victorian era charm. More structured and classic, the collection features luxurious fabrications in Japanese lace, Italian silks, mohair and angora. Lingerie detailing, printed silk, faux fur, and fitted tailoring are an ornate departure from Obakki's signature minimalist look. Expect to find a chic crimson trench, fitted lace dress and Fair Isle-inspired knitwear in the mix. "We've launched a collection that combines nostalgic romance with a distinctive modern edge."
Aside from fashion, Obakki is also making strides in the world of philanthropy. "The Obakki Foundation is such an integral part of who we are and what we represent not only in the world of fashion but in the world as a whole. We always have the concept in mind of using art, fashion and creativity to drive positive global change." The Foundation has participated in numerous projects in Cameroon, Africa, where it built 8 schools and clean water pipelines, delivered educational supplies, implemented health and nutrition programs and donated medical supplies. Recently they partnered with UNICEF to drill wells in Sudan and deliver clean water to countryside villages. Since last November the Obakki Foundation has helped with the drilling of 80 wells; that number will hopefully rise to 300 by the end of 2011.
Even with one foot firmly planted in the realm of fashion and another in the world of humanitarian work, Obakki is aggressively pursuing another frontier: cyberspace and social media. The brand tweets and blogs prolifically and has over 1700 Facebook fans. It has engaged with local and international bloggers (such as Rumi from Fashiontoast) and even livestreamed its fall/winter 2011 show online. "Social media is a great way to communicate your message as well as have a two-way conversation with the person that is most valuable, the customer." Fashion, non-profit work and social media...the next world that Obakki conquers is anyone's guess.
Obakki's flagship store is located at 44 Water St., Vancouver. For more information, check out their website at www.obakki.com.