Self-described World Travellers, twin brothers Byron & Dexter Peart went from founding a distribution agency focused on bringing the hottest fashion brands of the moment to North America, to launching their own brand of high-end bags, luggage and leather accessories, to opening a series of retails stores in Canada and the USA. After two decades of working on developing their brands, the brothers decided to sell their stakes in the companies they co-founded and exit the businesses. A big risk to some, they just see it at a natural progression.
How would you describe your job to someone who has no idea what you do?
We are designers, curators and storytellers who have spent the past 25 years creating and building leading businesses, spanning from wholesale distribution, retail and e-commerce, in the fashion and design industry. It is hard to say we have a title, but “Design Entrepreneurs” seems the best suited.
What milestone kickstarted your careers?
We have had many key moments in our career… our first order from Barneys NEW YORK to launch of our own brand/collection WANT LES ESSENTIELS for Holiday 2006 proved to us that we could compete on the highest level globally. Our chance meeting with Mickey Drexler, CEO & Chairman of J.Crew at the time, lead to a successful collaboration together. The opening of our first flagship store in New York’s West Village. Our full length features in Vogue & the New York Times in the same months. Our honour in Fast Company magazine as one of the 100 most creative people… We have had many important milestones.
– Byron Peart
“Change is always hard. It’s very natural to find safety and security in knowledge, experience and network… it’s important to recognize when it’s time to start a new challenge in life.”
What are you most proud of in your careers?
The opening of our first WANT LES ESSENTIELS store in New York. It has always been a dream of ours to start our own label and be recognized globally. Having a dedicated store that we designed every detail for was a true accomplishment that we will never forget.
What is your management style/method?
As twins, we are natural-born collaborators. We have always done our best work when we collaborate with other talented people who add to the creative and commercial processes.
Having recently exited the group of companies you founded, how do you embrace change?
Change is always hard. It’s very natural to find safety and security in knowledge, experience and network. In our case, we founded our previous company 18 years ago, and we were immensely proud of what we had accomplished so it took us time to decide it was time for a change. People need to evolve and expand, as do businesses. It is important to recognize when it’s time to start a new challenge in life.
One of your previous companies was a multi-brand brick & mortar store, what are the challenges in the retail industry today?
We believe retail is in a state of flux right now. There is an immense opportunity for brands and companies that clearly understand how to consistently deliver a unique experience that surprises and delights their clients – in a very human way. The challenge for the retailer is that they have little to no point of differentiation in their stores’ aesthetic, environment, products and level of service. They find themselves in a losing battle with online retailers that have the opportunity to compete with better prices, delivery systems and breadth of offer… and most likely better business economics.
– Dexter Peart
“When in doubt follow, your heart.”
Who has been your biggest mentor?
Our parents, both born in Jamaica, are also our biggest mentors, both personally and professionally. They encouraged us to follow our dreams and aspire for our own excellence. They have challenged us to inspire, to be inspired by others and taught us, from an early age, that success requires dedication to hard work.
Where do you draw inspiration from –both personally and professionally?
The belief system that inspires us most is “Essentialism”, and the notion of “Less but better” is at the core of our values. We intentionally set out to build our brand this way. This is not to be confused with Minimalism… Essentialism is not about reducing to the bare minimum, it is about ensuring that everything is well considered and has a reason to exist.
What is the best advice you have ever been given?
Take the time to stop and smell the roses.
What would be the best piece of advice you can give?
When in doubt follow, your heart.
Byron and Dexter Peart are twin brothers and co-founders of WANT LES ESSENTIELS, a high-end accessories label, WANT Agency, a distribution agency for several European fashion brands, and WANT Apothecary, a multi-brand retail store group. They are members of Fast Company’s 100 Most Creative People of 2015, Canadian Arts and Fashion Award winners for ‘Accessory Designer of the Year’ in 2014 & 2016, and have been included on Business of Fashion’s BOF 500 Honours list of “People Shaping the Global Fashion Industry” for 4 years running. In 2017 after 20 years of running their companies, the brothers announced their exit and sold their stake in the companies they co-founded in order to start something new.