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Clothes With a Cause

Profits from Treana Peake’s design label have paid for hundreds of water wells and schools in South Sudan and Cameroon. How she does it--and why.


How do you connect customers who buy your clothing with your causes?

There’s a red scarf that we sold, for example, and 100 percent of the proceeds of that red scarf go towards our projects. When we sell 500 of those red scarves, all those people who bought that scarf get connected to that one particular village where we drilled that well. We like to bring all of our campaigns full circle so that even if you’re buying a scarf, you know where your money went.

How do you measure success?

For me, it’s just results. We’ve done over 400 water wells in South Sudan. When we drill a well and I go back a year later and where it used to be dry, cracked earth, they’ve turned it into thriving agricultural villages, that really is a great indicator of success. Not just my success, but the success of the other people that are a part of it.

Growth for me on both sides of the business is about how much more money we can raise on the fashion side, and how many more people we can engage. 

You’re giving money away, but you also need to make money. How does that mind shift work for you?

I go from New York fashion parties to sitting and eating sorghum with an elder in a tree so there’s a definite juxtaposition between the worlds, but the actual behind-the-scenes business part of it, I don’t think is that different. I think they parallel. In order to have success on both sides, you need to be putting in lots of hours and be dedicated and committed and a smart business person. It’s all the same things. 

How is the company doing, and how is the foundation doing? 

We’ve done hundreds of wells and are now working with the United Nations, which has approached us about doing this pilot project in “Conflict Hot Zones” where we go in and drill livestock watering stations and water for people in order to reduce the conflict. We’re receiving national and international recognition on the ground for the work that we’re achieving, so that’s going really well.

On the business side, we’re getting more and more followers and more people buying into it and more people coming into our circle and putting out great collections with a great cause, so yeah, everything’s going good. 

Keep reading to see how her philanthropic work inspired her designs.