With a greater emphasis on home more than ever, the pandemic has spurred redecorating endeavors for many. But even more, just as people choose to consume more thoughtfully with their clothing and accessories, the same consideration occurs with decor. At the forefront of conscious home design is Goodee, a marketplace for globally sourced homewares and impact-driven lifestyle products founded by twin brothers Byron and Dexter Peart. But ethically minded business and responsible consumption are hardly new concepts for the Montreal-based duo.
In 2002, they founded Want Agency, a company that helped expose on-the-rise brands (including Acne Studios) to North America. Then, in 2006, their minimalist-leaning label WANT Les Essentiels, which focuses on essential luxury items like leather shoes and handbags, was born. What’s more, as sons of Jamaican immigrants, conscious consumption is innate. “I think most immigrant people have these similar stories where you don’t take things granted,” Byron tells TZR over Zoom. “That’s kind of the modus operandi at home,” he adds. “It was endemic in how we were raised.”
Though their evolution from fashion began with WANT Apothecary in 2011, Goodee is where Byron and Dexter’s zeal for sustainability, social consciousness, and home design amalgamated. “When we started WANT as a company now almost 20 years ago, we were really inspired by this idea of having a conversation around things that are essential. Things that were built to last, perform well for you, [and] add a lot of value,” Dexter explains. “In a lot of ways, Goodee is a natural evolution of that.”
The duo also felt frustrated by the consumption cycle that the fashion industry has long perpetuated. “We fundamentally had a belief system that wasn’t aligned [and] moved further and further away from this kind of overconsumption and disposable nature,” Byron explains of his and Dexter’s shift. Adding, “We just didn’t feel our values sat there.”
As an online marketplace, Goodee gives artisans from around the globe a platform to sell products. But even more, the company is about human stories and creating a deeper connection between maker and consumer. All the while supporting causes the brothers hold dear, from economic circularity to empowerment for women and marginalized communities. “We love design at its core, and we love that maker experience. Watching people make beautiful things,” Dexter shares. “We felt there was not necessarily someone who was telling the story about what the future of design could look like that also felt very relevant and modern in the sense of something that had more of a sustainable connection, a human connection, and then also put design at the front of the conversation.”
Goodee seeks to examine the more-stuff cycle by encouraging people to slow down, take stock of the things surrounding them, and question whether an item adds value to their lives, be it pure function, an aesthetic appreciation, or ideally, both. “It’s almost the challenge of Goodee, is to only present things we think have intrinsic value, that have a great and deep story, and then also have a human importance that hopefully inspires people to think a little bit more consciously about the choices that they make in their lives,” Dexter explains.
Goodee is also deeply rooted in collaboration, not only for the sake of creating covetable items but for the betterment of people. “We are twins, and we recognized very early on that we had strength in numbers,” Byron says. “For 48 years, I’ve had someone alongside me who’s helped me be the best person that I can be.” This form of collaboration and level of togetherness is a driving factor in how and why the brothers aim to partner with global makers.
“We see these people who are doing wonderful work and have great aspirations and so much talent, and then we think, ‘if we add another level of introducing them to a customer that’s, [say], in California, imagine the world and opportunity for trade that they might have.’” Likening himself and his brother to matchmakers in the sense of amplifying ethical design, Byron adds, “We built this platform because we recognize that through collaboration and partnership, real change could happen even more profoundly than it can at an individual level. That’s in our bones, and it’s in our blood. It just oozes outside of us. So, we’re constantly thinking about, ‘how could we do more just by the sheer nature of working with others and with a common goal?’”
Although responsible consumption and social consciousness are at the crux of Goodee, anyone can appreciate the platform for the discovery alone with beautifully curated and rigorously assessed items as another through-line. Like Ro-Smit’s beautiful but not precious dishware from Nepal, Tensira’s indigo-dyed linens and cushions from the Republic of Guinea, and ecoBirdy’s colorful children’s furniture made entirely out of plastic from recycled toys. And for customers who aren’t necessarily seeking out ethically made or environmentally responsible homewares, Goodee makes them appealing just the same, all while changing the narrative surrounding sustainable goods.“Once you start introducing these things and showing them with a valuable design quotient, it elevates the conversation from, ‘this is stuff that’s either too expensive or not desirable,’” Dexter says of Goodee’s ethical assortment. “We’re moving out of that conversation around sustainable design seeming like it’s this treehugger thing to something that is even more beautiful than something that’s not.”
Byron adds, “We think there’s this human conflict between desiring all these things that we want to have and finding the balance between what we need, functionally and existentially, too.” Similar to the founding principles of WANT Les Essentiels — which is to challenge consumers to buy essential items that serve a purpose while being equally appealing in style — Goodee is for those hoping to simplify with well-made things. “We knew that there were people who were also thinking the same way as us. That they wanted less, fewer things but that were going to be with them for a long time,” Byron continues. “I think the bigger difference is that now [sustainability] is almost the zeitgeist of the moment, and that’s exciting because it feels like the conversation we’ve been trying to have, is ready to resonate with an audience that’s captive.”
As Goodee continues to add causes, brands, and new curations like Goodee 100 — a spotlight of products at $100 or less, also available at Nordstrom — to its repertoire, Byron and Dexter also aim to democratize good design and inspire individualized joy along the way. “We want to make a presentation of a worldview of design and [allow] for the consumer to find what resonates with them,” Byron says, never a one-look aesthetic. Dexter adds, “[Global design] transports us and reminds us that even when we feel alone or isolated, that the big world is out there.”
This worldview mindset also provides unparalleled connectivity on an individual level, but also among loved ones. “Maybe [someone] thought that connection was either to the car that they drove or to the clothes that they bought,” Bryon says. “Now, their home in some ways is reflective of themselves [and] of their security in their style. With Instagram and social media now more than ever, it has even more of a relevance to be like what your environment is like.” Between friends and family, moments and conversations effortlessly become enriched. “A lot of times, these items are conversation starters,” Byron says of the pieces within Goodee’s curation. “It’s not just, ‘I got a chair for my kid because I’m homeschooling,’ it’s all of a sudden, ‘this chair is made out of recycled plastic,’ and that story carries forward.”
Most of all, Goodee’s products have a profound, lasting power that can ebb and flow between rooms, homes, or hands when gifted or passed down. “That whole notion of you bringing in these treasured items that have a story with how they were made, but then took on another story when they’ve been a part of your life and that carry through your life, that’s the space that we live in,” Byron says of Goodee and its products. “These objects have a lot more narrative than the functionality of the product itself.” What better way to thoughtfully consume than that?