Nolan Giles reporting from London: Byron and Dexter Peart have taken a stand against disposable design by providing a global shop window for sustainable, ethically sourced homeware. And theirs is a model that the retail industry is finally having a conversation about.
Montréal-based twins and serial entrepreneurs Byron and Dexter Peart are building a marketplace for the future. After successfully exiting their previous brand, Want Les Essentiels (an eco-conscious high-end accessories label that stood aside from the relentless churn of the fashion industry), their next start-up is focused on design. Good design, to be specific. Their online shop, Goodee, tells the stories behind (and sells) products of “very purposeful, intentional design”. Sixteen months in and working with a diverse list of labels – including Makaua, whose handcrafted baskets from Mexico support low-income families, and Frama in Copenhagen, which specialises in thoughtfully made furniture – the orders are flooding in. Here the pair explain why they do it.
MONOCLE: You use the expression ‘built for the future’ when you’re talking about the products that your shop is selling. What does this mean?
DEXTER PEART: Something we noticed when we were working in the fashion business was that a lot of production was about making things that just get used and disposed of. For us it started feeling very antiquated, not very modern, and it didn’t seem sustainable in any sense of the word. When we would travel we would find these amazing products with amazing stories behind them that were really built for the future. These were things that were made with care by people who were really focused on the materials and how things were to be made; how they were going to be used by the end consumer; and what their afterlife would be. There wasn’t really an environment for that conversation – so we created one.
MONOCLE: In North America, where you’re currently selling, is there an appetite for brands that focus on being ‘good’?
BYRON PEART: Five years ago, with our former business, the market was not that interested that we made products with organic cotton and recycled nylon. We actually had a major US retailer who said to us at the time, “We love that you guys are pushing the progressive nature of sustainable development in your products. But if we start telling that story about your brand then we have to tell it about all the other brands in the shop too, and we’re not able to do that today.” What is only just starting to happen here now is that there’s a retail landscape that’s shifting and changing to meet the consumer interests and we want to be a part of that. It needs to take an industry effort. And slowly but surely, that is happening in North America with consumer goods changing for the better and becoming closer to what we’ve been seeing in the food and transportation industries.
MONOCLE: And as you are direct to consumer, you’re educating them first hand with Goodee. How important is this?
DP: It’s extremely important for us, as is our direct relationship with the brands that we work with. We’re constantly thinking about new brands and the young makers and artists. These are people starting out and thinking about where they are going to be able to distribute their products and share their stories. We didn’t think that the old model supported these people so we built it to be this new environment and this new destination where those brands and stories can be highlighted. We took on that responsibility. We know it’s a big responsibility but we’re really excited about it and the reception has been fantastic.
Vive la différence
The Peart brothers say that diversity is embedded into the fabric of their company – starting with the 10 people who work in the head office: seven of whom are women; six are people of colour. The brothers say that this mixture naturally creates a diverse curiosity within the team, who are able to identify new expansion opportunities. Currently working with collaborators in more than 25 countries, the Goodee product range spans the globe. The often-untold stories behind this range of brands are unveiled on the platform.