Over the course of almost 20 years, twins Byron and Dexter Peart helped shift North American fashion away from logos toward a stealth definition of luxury and cool. Today, they’re focused on bringing sustainable design from around the world to the forefront. If their past successes are any indication, their new venture, the online marketplace Goodee, will make us rethink how we fill our homes, too.
Starting in 2000, their Montreal-based Want Agency brought then-unknown labels like Acne, Nudie Jeans and Maison Kitsuné to North America. By 2007, the brothers realized that the technology that was essential to their increasingly nomadic work lives didn’t have a very attractive place to hide, thereby giving rise to the organic accessories company Want Les Essentiels, which they sold, along with Want Agency, to their partners in 2017. They’ve spent the past three years not only building a global network of artisans dedicated to sustainability and making a social and environmental impact, but also certifying Goodee as one of the world’s 3,500 certified B-corps, which are committed to using business as a force for good.
Until recently, notes Byron from his Montreal office, what was shown in magazines and sold in stores was subject to a handful of gatekeepers who imposed their vision on what got seen or sold. With the advent of technology allowing consumers to buy directly from the producer, he says, “everyone has an opportunity to make their own voice and business.” Still, he notes, there’s become “a really strong need for who’s doing some level of curation and edit inside all these voices to build trust and break through the noise.”
Before they launched Goodee last spring, the Pearts spent years traveling the globe to meet the makers whose work caught their tasteful eye and to see the conditions in which the products — be they Colombian pots and placemats, Australian notebooks made from recycled calcium carbonate, or Scandinavian furniture crafted from responsibly sourced wood — were made. They also wanted to ensure that these were objects made to be handed down, not just Instagrammed and replaced by the next thing of the moment.
Byron is aware that this company, too, seems to be meeting the moment — however difficult this moment may be. “Since the pandemic, I think it’s really glaring in our faces: The things that are around us, do they matter? Do we need them? Do they really serve a purpose, and do they need to exist?” he wonders. “I think our timing is there, and I think the link from what we did [with Want] to here is straight: Don’t bring things into your life that don’t have value, or make sure they have some kind of impact in the world as well.”
Dexter continues the thought seamlessly when he adds that all of the companies on Goodee are thinking about sustainability as much as they’re thinking about the people and community that it serves, concluding: “I think that the future of design really has to speak into both of those social and environmental impacts.”
PRIOR initially asked the Pearts to select five of their favorite items and tell the story behind each. But considering that they’re twins, that would have been unfair! So here, please find six great Goodee goods.
“This basketry company in Ghana, created by a Canadian man and his Ghanaian wife, is an amazing organization that is mostly female-run. They’re making the most beautiful woven baskets that are, in our estimation, art forms onto themselves. They’ve come up with some modern takes on traditional techniques, and use bright colors. Each one is made individually and signed by the maker. Last summer, we sold a lot of Baba Tree bike baskets. Throughout the pandemic, there has been just an incredible connection between people’s interest and desire in mobility at the same time of being at home, and I think that product just kind of captured it.” — Byron Peart
“We made these in partnership with the United Nations–sponsored Ethical Fashion Initiative. It’s a beautiful end-to-end story. During our trips to Burkina Faso, we were watching women weave the fabric directly, and then afterwards dye the yarns and create these unique colorful stripes and patterns that they have in their heads. We then produce the bags together with another social cooperative in Italy, Cartiera, which is an amazing production and skills training facility providing meaningful work and opportunities for refugees and new migrants.” — Dexter Peart
“This is run by a husband-and-wife duo. Hamidou hails from Guinea and Tuulia from Finland, and they’re now based in Paris. They decided to create this entire home lifestyle company, based mostly around kapok-fiber mattresses and pillows made in Guinea. All of the fabrics are hand-sewn and dyed locally, working on indigo-dyeing traditions that Hamidou’s mother practiced for decades. The mattress is one of our best-selling items. You can use it on a lounger or outdoors, or as a meditation mat or this really easy area if you want to have, like, a seated dining moment.” — Byron
“Kazuri is a group of Kenyan women in Nairobi that have been making beaded products for 25 years. Their reason for being is to empower women. These are single mothers that have the opportunity for trade by the work that they do. In the middle of the pandemic, it’s been even more difficult to get the women to work. So it’s one of the reasons why we’re super excited about building that relationship with them and continuing to promote the crafts that they do.” — Dexter
“ACdO is 100 percent the kind of brand that speaks with the design intention that Byron and I are laser locked into. They’re using recycled bottles as the base for these lamps, which are handmade in Colombia. These solutions not only speak from a social level — to these women artisans who are making these really beautiful woven light shades — but also using these plastic bottles as an upcycled solution. We redesigned the hotel Matachica in Belize, and installed these lights throughout the dining area.” — Byron
“The Berea College Student College Craft program has been around for over a century — it was the first non-segregated co-educational college in the South — and it trains mostly underprivileged kids to come to Kentucky and have an education but also join a craft program, where they learn time-honored techniques. The most famous is in their broomcraft-making. For the most part, they only sell the brooms through their college and their website, but they just came to the platform this November.” — Dexter
Christine Muhlke is a food consultant and writer currently based in Woodstock, NY. A former editor at The New York Times and Bon Appétit and the founder of the Xtine newsletter, she has written books with chefs Eric Ripert of Le Bernardin, David Kinch of Manresa and Eric Werner of Hartwood Tulum. Her most recent books include Wine Simple with Le Bernardin’s Aldo Sohm and Signature Dishes That Matter.