WANT Les Essentiels | Fred Segal Sunset

by BJ Panda Bear

The brand WANT Les Essentiels has long been a great go to in the worlds of travel and the general on-the-go lifestyle of the work to play urbanites. Launched in 2006, the Montreal based brand merged the tactile construction of sturdy canvases with a design flair that is stream line enough to take from a travel trip to the office. More recently the brand has installed new Creative Director, Christine Charlebois to bring the brand into a new conversation with the current cultural imposition questioning sustainability, luxury and the overall brand’s place in the world market catering to the various types of weariless travelers. We spoke to Charlebois at her installation at Fred Segal Sunset to better understand the moves she’s making to take the brand forward. 

Congrats on the new collection I love this display it’s so sleek and cool!

This is my little tree! Welcome to our installation. It’s a first time for us, it’s my first collection, first time as creative director, first time shop in a shop. The brand used to be about architecture and Brutalism, so when I was assigned as new creative director we started working on a collection where nature was taking over concrete, so taking a turn, but in a peaceful, mindful way, just like nature would take over abandoned buildings or something. This is what the installation is trying to represent, this little tree where the bags are kind of blooming. 

I feel like under your direction it actually feels fully fulfilled in regard to the aesthetic of the Brutalist statement, before I felt there was kind of a warmth to the bags. My friends always had the ones that were woven and like that, and I feel like this one is more in line with the kind of ideology of Brutalism and minimalism.

Minimal. I don’t like things that don’t have a purpose in a way. The brand has always been form as function, where I’m trying to do function as form. Playing right now with the bags in the studio their pockets are outside, actually. I know it sounds silly because you can see a lot of rucksacks with pockets outside, but I mean the bags are known for their interior with all the pocketing, that is super well done, so I was like, ‘What if we bring all of that outside?’

These pieces are like that, you would open up the bag and see this inside. 

Yes exactly, so we started to experiment on a couple of pieces, it’s mainly the idea. I like as well that it’s kind of long term pieces, so like this one was built to wear under a coat. I feel like it’s not cause you invest in the kind of piece you want to show off, it’s like, your kind of doing it for yourself. Like mindfulness in a way. This is another one of my favorites. So with all the materials that we had in our factories were from previous seasons, we decided to build little goods that you could kind of collect and create your own belt, like personality. We’ve got the baby backpack like wallet and fits a little camera. It’s got a card sleeve as well. And then we’ve got the round pouch, the rectangle one, and the half-circle, so hopefully brings it to be a bit playful.

Love that, very modular!

Yeah, in a playful way. I don’t want us to take ourselves too seriously. Everyone is unique and everyone has their own needs when they travel, so it’s like being capable of adapting.

Photographed by Tori Willis

Photographed by Tori Willis

Adapting to yourself, yeah. I see that. Have you been working with more tech fabrics and all?

Yes, so this is definitely something we’re looking into, like Italian nylon. It’s like velvet, it’s so soft. We’ve got the organic cotton and leather. Next collection we’ve got a rucksack that is made of eco nylon as well. It’s the third season that we’re doing eco. I’ve got another fabric for the city group that is going to be using the eco nylon fiber as well, but it’s got a texture, lots of texture. I like smells, I like colors. My friends laugh at me—every time I go into a store I touch everything. It reminds me of souvenir. 

They are all so modular and almost like a remix of all the accessories.

When we decided to do this launch with Fred Segal, I wanted to bring style that has been successful for the brand and a new silhouette of course. So the classic tote and “Kastrup” classic backpack. And we have the “Tacoma” in navy. So, this new backpack. It’s a bit more of an angle.

Oh, trapezoidal! There are all these elements that are classic that you have taken apart and put back together!

Yeah, so this one is a mix of like our “Kastrup” arch and the “Tacoma” pocket at the front, it’s like the shrunk tote with the “Tacoma” pocket. 

How do you see this brand for people wearing it now, though? Is it more for traveling or day to day?

It’s funny. I was in the lobby at the hotel, and I saw our client mix and match it. So, I saw this guy. He had an Off-White luggage, the Louis Vuitton carry on, and he had our waist bag. I think that hopefully we become an essential, but a playful one. You don’t have to just be wearing a white shirt and navy trousers to wear one. 

I love the styling in the invite. 

Thank you. I did that! Yeah. We had a rolling rack of knitwear that we’ve been doing and we’ve been testing, 

Is ready-to-wear something that you guys are going to take over soon?

Totally. I’m from the ready to wear industry. I’ve always done ready-to-wear before. So, I’m working on a ready-to-wear line. Like travel. Like classic. Because I travel all the time, and I’m always like ‘ugh, I wish that coat had this and this’ and I’m like ‘why am I not doing it?/ What is it that you would put in your suitcase to be efficient and then comfortable and nice elevated fabric. Same philosophy as the bag, basically. Timeless. Form, Function, and Sustainable. Yeah. They’re families

Is this organic stamp something that you’re incorporating on specific items, how has the branding shaped up to cover the various lifestyles WANT ?

I’ve restructured a collection. So, you have four families. The Travel one, will always be made of either organic cotton or natural fibers. Then we’ve got the City for the city commuter which is our nylon.  The Architecture which is the leather. And soon we’ve got the Sport, which is made of the eco-nylon fabric.

I love that concept. The thing that’s very important right now is to have different identities under the same umbrella. 

Yes! And the coats are a bit more for travel. The coats that I’m working on. So, they’re gonna fit in this universe. I really want to work on a coat for the sport though. So coming as well. The knitwear is more like so clean pieces. You want to sleep in it basically. So soft! It’s crazy.


WANT Les Essentiels’ shop in shop at Fred Segal Sunset will be open until January 2020

Photographed by Tori Willis