Good design is hard to define and yet easy to recognise. It is something that must be experienced, something that the eye and hand will recognise as being "right", but that often will defy satisfactory explanation. It is the culmination of numerous small decisions that have combined to create a finished product that expresses its function through its form. It is also the currency that brothers Byron and Dexter Peart have traded in since they founded their luxury luggage and accessories label, WANT Les Essentiels de la Vie, in 2006.
Conventional wisdom would suggest that two brothers - identical twins no less - might feel the need to break away from each other as they matured, looking to start out on their own, but the Peart brothers are defined by their remarkable closeness. "From a young age we realised the power of two", notes Dexter. "We grew up sharing the same close friends, studied the same degree at the same university, followed into the fashion industry together immediately after, and live 100 meters away from each other".
Differences are there if you want to find them - "Byron is more of an idealist", explains Dexter - but , whenever the topic of discussion turns to design there is a ringing agreement, especially when the celebrated German designer Dieter Rams is mentioned.
"We borrowed our design ethos from his ingenious 10 Principles of Design", the brothers echo. "His 'less, but better' philosophy resonates through our entire design process." If you're going to steal, steal from the best, and the brothers would certainly define themselves as students of the Rams' school.
"We design together" says Byron, "and our collective inputs and ideas shape the outcome of every product we make, but if we are not both aligned on the essential nature of a product, we don't make it."
Essential is the key word here. One of the great crimes against design, according to Rams, is to produce a product that is "burdened with non-essentials", and if a product does not have an essence - a function to perform - then for Rams and the Peart brothers it has no purpose. If, as the idiom states, necessity is the mother of invention then function is the father of design, and the Peart twins specialise in creating products with a very specific function in mind.
An understanding of function comes from astute experience. Before they founded their label, the brothers both had globetrotting jobs in the fashion industry. This offered them the mind-expanding experience of travel, tempered by the cold and alienating conduit of the airport lounge and check-in desk - spaces where good design and comfort are often lacking. Yet, the key to Want les Essentials pieces are that they provide a specific function for the modern traveller.
"It wasn't so much the luggage", Dexter recalls, "but rather the lack of luggage for the advent of new, more technological lifestyle that first drew us in. With the internet, people now work from anywhere. We wanted to create stylish cases to house these new technologies".
What Dexter and Byron recognised is that luggage traditionally designed to hold pen and paper was now unsuited for a world of touch screens and brushed aluminium. A testament to the success of each design is that most Want Les Essentials products don't look complete until they have an iPad or Macbook nestled inside them. This is admirable from a design perspective, but it also demonstrates the reverence Dexter and Byron have for the world's most successful electronics company, describing it as "the epitome of success and a true inspiration".
What becomes clear when you engage Dexter and Byron in a discussion about design is that it is more than an occupation. Their work is informed by a wider appreciation of design that has them citing design triumphs such as Mies van der Rohe's Farnsworth House, Jean Prouve's Cite Chair, and Eero Saarinen's Miller House amongst their inspirations. Similarly, the pair live within a modern design classic, Habitat 67 – a revolutionary urban housing concept built specifically for Expo 67, the World's Fair held in Montreal.
"Designed by Moshie Safdie, Habitat is an early idea of prefab living", explains Byron. "Man and his World' was the theme of Expo 67 and through Habitat, Safdie created a setting in which man could interact with his environment in a sustainable way. It is very unique and a wonderful community."
Habiat 67 is an example of optimistic 1960s design at its peak. From the age when the world's brightest minds were exploring the idea that good design could change people's lives for the better, it represents a vision of the designer as social architect. While Dexter and Byron would certainly shy away from comparing themselves to design greats such as Rams, Safdie, and Prouve, their task is the same: to bring pleasure and ease to the lives of the people who use their products through the clarity and essential quality of their design.