Montreal natives Byron and Dexter Peart are twin brothers and the co-founders of Want Les Essentiels, a cult high-end accessories label focused on making stylish and comfortable luggage and travel bags for frequent travellers. Founded in 2006 with a third partner Mark Wiltzer, who remains an active and integral part of the brand, the Peart brothers both had a background in men’s sportswear before spotting a gap in the market for sleek, streamlined travel accessories – bags, briefcases, and gadget cases.
The two were born and raised in the Canadian capital of Ottawa and both educated at the University of Western Ontario. With experience gained from running Want, an agency that helped introduce of-the-moment brands like Acne, Nudie Jeans, Filippa K and Maison Kitsuné to the North American market, the Peart brothers launched the brand with a clear vision and plan for execution. Electronics gadgets were rapidly becoming the norm, whilst consumer appetite had evolved beyond flashy logos for a more discreet but no less luxurious product.
But all did not go as smoothly as planned. With products ranging from entry-level to the high-end ($1,500) and little in between, demand was uneven. Further exacerbating the operational challenges from widespread distribution, two of their suppliers went out of business, forcing the Pearts to reconsider. “If we were going to keep going, it was imperative that we increased our scale, built better and more strategic prices and developed the collection by adding new segments. We gave ourselves until the end of the year,” they told BoF.
A chance meeting with Mickey Drexler , the retail veteran and whiz merchant of J.Crew , led them to turn things around, starting with a one-off collaboration with J.Crew that brought them wider brand recognition.
“That struggle period showed us that while we had the sales and marketing right because of our background with the agency, we had less experience on the production side of things.” Looking back, the founders also think their early ambition to sell globally may have been misguided: “We should have focused on our own region first before looking at the whole world.”