Byron and Dexter Peart on Design, Doing Good and What is Essential

Boldly wearing their values and vision for a better world over their organic cotton sweatshirts and wool blazers, the Peart brothers have wanted to create something purposeful since they were children.

It may have started with a DIY 7–Up–and–Vaseline lip balm the then 10–year–old twins tried pushing on every kid in school, but if Byron and Dexter now reign supreme on the list of Montreal tastemakers, that’s because these born designers have never stopped trying to refine things. For more than 20 years, they have built their brands into cult favourites – like high–end accessory label Want Les Essentiels de la Vie – and worked to redefine luxury. Their latest endeavour, Goodee, elevates their mission of building a kinder, smarter, more beautiful world, bridging conscious consumers with responsible artisans from around the globe. In offering home essentials that live up to Byron and Dexter’s exacting design standards, the curated digital marketplace brings to life the makers’ stories and proves that good design and good intentions do go hand–in–hand.

June 24, 2020
A houseplant and several tasteful objects on a circular table.
Byron and Dexter Peart in an apartment at Habitat 67, with one brother sitting in a chair.

enRoute You spent your career figuring out what the essentials are – the few useful things we would choose to own if our desires weren’t endless. How did this become the starting point for Goodee?

Dexter Peart Throughout our career, we have thought about how we could add value to the way we live. We have always been very vocal about what design–forward means and, for us, it has been about combatting the throw–away trend. At this time of uncertainty, inequality and climate emergency, things that have great value are well–made, meant to last, ageless, borderless, genderless and have a huge respect for the people that make them and the planet they serve. That was the seed for Goodee. It is a direct reflection of our values and beliefs.

ER In 2018 you redesigned a resort in Belize. Can you describe the visual signature you created at Matachica?

DP The vision for Matachica was “the world can wait.” We wanted to create an environment that felt and looked unlike anything guests had seen before and would have them turning off their phones. The starting point was not trying to replicate a Belizean style but looking at what local craftsmen were doing and combining that with what people were doing in other places. Ambergris Caye sits on the world’s second largest barrier reef, so it felt like the perfect opportunity for us to foster the conversation on sustainability and local craft. The space was designed to transport guests on a voyage to discover beautiful things that are designed with social intention.

Byron and Dexter Peart at Habitat 67 in Montreal.

ER That approach seems consistent with Goodee’s DNA. Was the Matachica revamp a proving ground for Goodee?

Byron Peart Whether we are designing a hotel or a sweatshirt, the common thread is how well–considered every detail is. Everything has a story. It was a test for us to see whether we would be able to bring products from all over the world to this small island country. Many of those became the first items sold on Goodee, so there’s a direct line between designing our first hotel and launching our platform. The ACdO lamps that guests see when they come into the hotel are a great example. Designers in Colombia turn PET plastic bottles that would likely end up in the ocean into beautiful hand–woven light fixtures and serve their community and the planet in doing so. The narrative is directly related to the barrier reef that the hotel sits on, which is a huge part of the guest experience.

ER Goodee’s business model is based on the UN’s sustainable development goals. How do you vet the makers you work with?

DP Our partnerships are based on responsibility, from supply to production. We get to know the owners – and the stories – of the brands we work with. We visit their factories and assess how they operate their companies, what their vision is and what the staff’s expectations are. A good example is the Bassi – an everyday tote that Goodee recently launched, made in collaboration with a UN–partnered social co–op in Italy. The co–op hires African asylum seekers and teaches them how to make bags. This product is the embodiment of what Goodee stands for.

“In many cases, innovation is inspired by the past. Things that are innovative are also often enduring – meaning as relevant decades from now as they are today.”

An overhead shot of Byron and Dexter Peart walking at Habitat 67.
A picture in a frame with the reflection of a green plant obscuring the image.
A close-up portrait of Byron and Dexter Peart.

ER Goodee set out a little over a year ago and already earned B Corp™ Certification. What does this achievement mean to you?

BP We are beyond thrilled to join the movement, because we’ve been working on earning B Corp™ status since day one. This certification means that we’re meeting the highest standards of social and environmental performance, but beyond the legal checkmarks, a B Corp is really a way of doing business consciously and responsibly. As a company founded on principles of sustainability and mindful connection to our world, becoming a certified B Corp felt like a natural fit from the start. It validates our raison d’être — to create a world where caring for people and the planet comes first — and ensures we always live up to the high standards we’ve set for ourselves.

ER What is your definition of innovation?

BP I think innovation is misunderstood. When we think of innovation, we often think of technology, the future and new concepts. However, in many cases, innovation is inspired by the past. Things that are innovative are also often enduring – as relevant decades from now as they are today. Innovation comes from or is based on tradition or a skill. When we look at the ACdO designers, the innovation doesn’t come through technology, it comes through craft and its impact. It is through this lens that we design and curate for Goodee, and I like to think that was also well–executed at Matachica.

ER You launched Goodee in Montreal. How has the city shaped your creative approach?

DP There is a lot of Montreal rooted into the aesthetic of Goodee. Montreal is culturally important, independent, young, bold and diverse – and that’s how we want Goodee to come across. It’s a special place where people have a global vision. A lot of our design has been informed by Montreal in the 1960s and the legacy of Expo 67.

Byron and Dexter Peart photographed in front of a wide window.

ER You’re both residents of Habitat 67 and your block units are just a few doors down from each other. How does this iconic building inspire you?

BP It is our favourite building in the city. Dexter has been living here for 15 years and I’ve been here 10. Moshe Safdie was 23 when he designed Habitat 67 and imagined what the future of communal living would be like, away from standard high–rise buildings. What makes it special is the ability to feel like you’re inside and outside at the same time and this idea of connection between nature and daily life, which I think still feels very modern today. We’ve always found our inspiration in architecture. When you are designing a building, you’re not looking to build something that will last for a season. You have to think about how people will move within that space a hundred years from now. That is the same way we approach product design.

ER You have each clocked up over a million miles collaborating with makers from around the world. What is the secret to making the most of your travels?

BP Connecting with locals. We always try to find a local to take us to all the unknown spots. This is how we find inspiration in the least obvious places. We are market guys, so whether we are in an open–air market in Nairobi, or downtown Tokyo, we’re looking for new things. When we were working on Matachica, we were put in touch with one of Mexico’s most acclaimed ceramicists, in Guadalajara. We had the opportunity to see him at work and meet the other artisans in his circle. There is no other way we would have had access to that. That is how we work – it’s also how we approach a vacation.

The Questionnaire

  • Carry–on essential Hand cream and noise–cancelling headphones.

  • Dream seatmate (Dexter) Byron.

  • Dream seatmate (Byron) My husband.

  • Earliest travel memory Jamaica, to visit our grandma as kids. Getting off the plane and smelling the Caribbean.

  • Travel has the power to... (Byron) Connect people.

  • Travel has the power to... (Dexter) Change the world.