CANADIAN DESIGNERS: DEXTER AND BYRON PEART / NEW YORK FASHION WEEK

pert bros nyc sept 2015 1

pert bros nyc sept 2015 2

pert bros nyc sept 2015 3

By STEPHEN HEYMANSEPT. 23, 2015

MONTREAL — This is not a typical city to start a global luxury brand, but then again Want Les Essentiels de La Vie specializes in being atypical, beginning with that mouthful of a name and the company’s identical twin founders, Byron and Dexter Peart.

The Peart brothers, 43, have devoted their lives to making functional, discreetly luxurious leather bags, backpacks and canvas totes, priced about a third less than comparable designer bags. Inspired by midcentury design and named after international airports like Orly and O’Hare, their accessories have struck a chord among Monocle-reading, art-fair-attending globe-trotters who have a lot to carry (smartphones, Smartwater, maybe a book) and want to look sharp doing it.

Want is on the verge of a new level of success and exposure. In 2014, the Pearts introduced a women’s accessories collection, landing them a Vogue feature. This spring brought a men’s shoe collection done up in fine Italian leather like their signature bags. Early next month, Want will open its first New York store in Greenwich Village, which will be followed by a second outpost in Tokyo, in early 2016.

pert bros nyc sept 2015 4

The New York boutique, on West Fourth Street, is styled like a private townhouse. Shoppers will be served tea as they browse through the latest collection, which is mixed in with high-end fashion by Comme des Garçons Forever and curios by the Viennese designer Carl Auböck.

Tomoko Ogura, the women’s fashion director of Barneys, which has sold Want’s accessories since its first season, said that the brand has managed to preserve its cachet even as it has branched out into new areas. She singled out the company’s City crossbody bag for women, which looks like a miniaturized physician’s bag and comes with a removable strap. It’s now become a core part of Barneys’ women’s offerings, much like the brand’s Kastrup briefcase-cum-backpack has been for men’s.

“The beauty of Want is that harmony between function and form,” Ms. Ogura said, “which I think really comes out of the push and pull between Dexter and Byron. They’re twins. They fight and they laugh at each other, and all of that love and soul is infused into what they make.”

As the creators of an indie brand, the Peart twins say they’re grateful to be placed in the same company as venerable luxury houses like Prada and Balenciaga at the hundred or so elite shops where they’re stocked: places like Tomorrowland in Tokyo, Liberty in London and Colette in Paris. But they also consider their products to be a kind of quiet critique of “it” bags and the attendant cult of conspicuous consumption.

pert bros nyc sept 2015 5

“This idea of luxury, just putting a high price on something and that defining it as luxurious, has been bought into forever,” Byron Peart said. “But more and more customers are walking into a store and saying: ‘Wait a second. Why is that bag $6,000?’ ”

During an interview this summer inside the meticulous glass-walled office they share in the Villeray section of Montreal, the Pearts spent several hours recalling (and gently bickering over) the details of their career trajectories. The two are long talkers, fast talkers, and they talk over each other, feeding on each other’s enthusiasm. A third, older brother calls their relationship “the mutual congratulation society.”

“When we get excited, it’s painful for the people on the airplane sitting next to us,” Dexter Peart said. “Especially on those long flights to Tokyo. It’s really bad.”

The brothers began Want in 2000 as a retail venture called Want Stil, based in Old Montreal. They didn’t sell their own products; they sold Swedish fashion, becoming the first shop outside Europe to stock labels like Acne and Philippa K.

Besotted with Scandinavian design, they decided to turn the business into a wholesale and branding operation under the name Want Agency. “I was definitely the odd man out at Stockholm Fashion Week,” Byron Peart said. “We were a couple of Jamaican-origin black kids from Canada that decided to open up the first Scandinavian design store in North America.”

While being the go-to guys for Acne and other Nordic brands established their reputation in the fashion world, the twins harbored plans to create their own suite of products, which would reflect their precise, borderline obsessive aesthetic. They partnered with Mark Wiltzer and his wife, Jacqueline Gelber, owners of Mark Edwards Apparel, a manufacturer with long roots in the Montreal garment industry.

For their first collection in 2006, the Pearts seized on a strenuously unsexy product category: travel accessories, which, they thought at the time, were abysmally designed, ridiculously expensive or both. Their first two products were a $1,000 laptop bag and a $200 case for a newfangled music player called the iPod.

“It was sort of that time of ostentatious Juicy Couture and people going to the airport in jogging pants,” Dexter Peart said. “There were a lot of ballistic nylon bags that men would travel around with or some pharmaceutical bag that they got from a conference. And here was the iPod, arguably the most beautiful industrial-design product of the decade, and people were putting $19 molded plastic cases on it and wrapping it.”

pert bros nyc sept 2015 6

“This idea of luxury, just putting a high price on something and that defining it as luxurious, has been bought into forever,” Byron Peart said. “But more and more customers are walking into a store and saying: ‘Wait a second. Why is that bag $6,000?’ ”

During an interview this summer inside the meticulous glass-walled office they share in the Villeray section of Montreal, the Pearts spent several hours recalling (and gently bickering over) the details of their career trajectories. The two are long talkers, fast talkers, and they talk over each other, feeding on each other’s enthusiasm. A third, older brother calls their relationship “the mutual congratulation society.”

“When we get excited, it’s painful for the people on the airplane sitting next to us,” Dexter Peart said. “Especially on those long flights to Tokyo. It’s really bad.”

The brothers began Want in 2000 as a retail venture called Want Stil, based in Old Montreal. They didn’t sell their own products; they sold Swedish fashion, becoming the first shop outside Europe to stock labels like Acne and Philippa K.

Besotted with Scandinavian design, they decided to turn the business into a wholesale and branding operation under the name Want Agency. “I was definitely the odd man out at Stockholm Fashion Week,” Byron Peart said. “We were a couple of Jamaican-origin black kids from Canada that decided to open up the first Scandinavian design store in North America.”

While being the go-to guys for Acne and other Nordic brands established their reputation in the fashion world, the twins harbored plans to create their own suite of products, which would reflect their precise, borderline obsessive aesthetic. They partnered with Mark Wiltzer and his wife, Jacqueline Gelber, owners of Mark Edwards Apparel, a manufacturer with long roots in the Montreal garment industry.

For their first collection in 2006, the Pearts seized on a strenuously unsexy product category: travel accessories, which, they thought at the time, were abysmally designed, ridiculously expensive or both. Their first two products were a $1,000 laptop bag and a $200 case for a newfangled music player called the iPod.

“It was sort of that time of ostentatious Juicy Couture and people going to the airport in jogging pants,” Dexter Peart said. “There were a lot of ballistic nylon bags that men would travel around with or some pharmaceutical bag that they got from a conference. And here was the iPod, arguably the most beautiful industrial-design product of the decade, and people were putting $19 molded plastic cases on it and wrapping it.”

pert bros nyc sept 2015 7

Suffice it to say, the brothers have always lived their lives in lock step. They grew up in suburban Ottawa, among just a few black children in their middle-class neighborhood. Their father, an economist, and mother, a microbiologist, had met at McGill University in Montreal shortly after emigrating from Jamaica in the 1960s.

The twins initially followed their father’s footsteps, studying economics in college. But they always had an entrepreneurial side, even spending their summer vacations as teenagers on the beaches of Jamaica hawking sunglasses they brought with them from the Canadian dollar store.

“We spent nine months apart when Byron was finishing university when we were 23 years old,” Dexter Peart said. “Other than that, we’ve lived either together or 100 meters away from each other for 43 years.”

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/09/24/fashion/montreal-want-les-essentiels-de-la-vie.html?partner=rss&emc=rss&smid=tw-nytfashion&smtyp=cur&_r=0

Please follow and like us:
This entry was posted in CANADIAN DESIGNERS, CANADIAN FASHION, JAMES FOWLER and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.