These Canadian Design Twins Are Quietly Building an Accessory Empire

Want Les Essentiels Designers: Byron &
Want Les Essentiels Byron (left) and Dexter Peart.
Courtesy of brand.

DSquared2’s Dean and Dan Caten are not the only breakout Canadian fashion siblings.

Meet identical twin Canadian brothers Byron and Dexter Peart, who launched their cultish luxury leather-goods label in 2006 and have a loyal following among the minimalist design crowd. “We wanted to create essential pieces that accompanied someone in their daily adventures, whether it be to work, at home or traveling,” said Byron of the brand’s sleek, well-considered bags.

Want Les Essentiels women’s Cordova crepe patent derby, $450

In 2011, they introduced equally polished shoes. Last season, the brothers, who are based between Montreal and New York, began offering women’s styles. And while in Canada they are considered national fashion treasures, their line is also an insider favorite abroad, carried at Barneys, Mr.Porter.com and Le Bon Marche, among other sellers, with price points set at $225 for sandals and plim­solls, up to $595 for boots.

On Thursday, Footwear News visited the opening party for the latest Want Apothecary in New York’s NoMad Hotel. The tastemakers also have stores in moneyed residential enclaves in Montreal, Vancouver and Toronto.

“The concept is to offer an edit of our line with a curation of other complementary products we like,” says Dexter about the Scandinavian-heavy assortment, which includes apparel by Acne Studios (early on, the brothers were the first to distribute the brand in North America) and Tôteme, plus fragrances from Byredo. “We wanted to create a sense of intimacy and authority — everything has been hand-selected by us.”

Want Les Essentiels signature bags on display at the new NoMad Hotel Want Apothecary.

It also dovetails nicely with the label’s travel accessory house. If one did loose their luggage, they could stock up here — from bags to boots and everything Nordic-inspired in between. “The idea is if you are visiting from out of town, we’ve got all those travel essentials — the perfect T-shirt, jeans or sneakers — in one place.”

The featured shoe display in the center of the store highlights the men’s and women’s footwear offerings.

Speaking of, the duo’s handmade shoes, a big push for Want, take pride of place in a spotlit wooden installation in the shop’s center. The footwear is crafted in Spain, Italy and Portugal, using Italian leathers. “We found great partners who understood our vision of high-value shoes that are built to last,” said Dexter. “We worked together to create custom rubber cupsoles and heel pillows for our sneakers, plus soles and midsoles made of memory foam to provide extra comfort for our Derbys.”

Want Les Essentiel men’s Lennon sneaker, $295.

Raised in Ottawa, Ontario, in an academic family, the brothers’ design M.O., be it for bags, shoes or a store concept, often cites the European midcentury intelligentsia. “We always make reference to the ten principles of [industrial designer] Dieter Rams,” said Byron. “One of our favorite quotes from him is ‘Good design is making something intelligible and memorable. Great design is making something meaningful.” Their work has resonated with a number of low-key notables, including Kiera Knightley, Olivia Wilde, Matt Bomer and Canada’s “first lady” Sophie Grégoire-Trudeau, wife of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

“As Canadians, we spend a lot of time traveling,” said Dexter. “We are influenced by the importance of craftsmanship. In our shoes, we try to integrate this aesthetic with the practicality and ideal of comfort that is found in North America, marrying the two into each of our designs.”

Want Les Essentiels women’s ankle boots, $595.

In terms of other design countrymen that inspire the Pearts, they turn to the world of architecture and interiors.

“We greatly admire Yabu Pushelberg,” says Dexter of the Toronto-based firm responsible for Lane Crawford and Toronto’s Four Seasons Hotel. “They are such innovators in the international architecture and design space,” adds Byron. “They  have found a way to seamlessly and dynamically move from architecture into different avenues such as hotel and furniture design. They have a certain curiosity and drive to think outside the box, while still having a tremendously clear vision and point of view.”

As for fellow Canadian designers looking to make it big, the brothers have some sound advice: “We would say start with a purpose and clear perspective, and have the courage to take it beyond Canada,” says Dexter.