I know there are people out there who get their Christmas tree up the day after Halloween. I’m not one of those people. In fact, I spend most of November and early December pitching people (my husband, whichever neighbour gets in the elevator with me, et cetera) on the idea of moving Christmas to every four years, like the Olympics. “That way, it’s a special treat!” I’ll say, as everyone else on the Zoom call conveniently experiences technical difficulties and has to leave the chat.
But when I walked into the new Obakki showroom in Vancouver’s Chinatown last week, I was overcome with the urge to start my holiday shopping ASAP. Turns out all it took to vanquish my inner Grinch was some lovingly handmade dishware and a tray full of chunky jewellery from African makers: Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!
Treana Peake (a two-time winner of Western Living’s Fashion Designer of the Year award) really has my number. Her purpose-driven lifestyle shop is full of beautifully curated objects from makers and designers around the world, and the collection is just irresistibly giftable. It’s not just that every handmade Japanese broom and piece of Australian pottery is a lovely design object: it’s that each piece either benefits people and communities in need, or supports independent artists in far-flung corners of the globe. The feel-good vibes are contagious.
Peake’s an avid traveller, though one whose globetrotting is driven by altruism. With the Obakki Foundation, she’s been helping build wells and develop enterprises in African villages for a decade-plus; the design shop side of the business aims to build on that helping-others-help-themselves philosophy. On an average trip, she follows her curiosity in an itinerary-less fashion: she’ll meet one person who wants to introduce her to their weaver cousin who mentions they know the best place to harvest lavender and while they’re at the field, they’ll meet a beekeeper… and on and on and on. “It gets me into trouble,” she laughs.
If trouble is what brings us such an inspiring collection of homewares, though, I hope she continues to wreak havoc. In her Chinatown showroom, one shelf features candy-coloured tumblers, made outside Milan by a family of glassblowers who have been in the business for 300-plus years. Chunky mugs from Australia across the room are crafted from a clay of crushed alligator eggshells and emu dung. On a big table, a gift box of soaps is artfully displayed: Peake tells me the bars are crafted from oils sourced from regions all over Africa. Everything has a story. “It just enriches everything,” says Peake.
The showroom is open during business hours to peruse—just buzz up, if you’re feeling bold—but Peake and team have plans to host pop-up shopping nights closer to the holidays, too. Online shopping is ready to roll right now, though, if you can’t wait. I know I’m already making my list and checking it twice (a candle for my mother-in-law, a hand-stitched stuffed elephant for the nephew) and feeling that warm, early November holiday glow.
261 E Pender St., Vancouver
Open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday to Friday