In our Workspace series, BC presents interesting, intelligently designed and unique spaces across Canada. From innovative home offices to ready-to-use coworking spaces to unconventional setups like this beauty business run on a rural farm, we seek to showcase the most unique and beautiful spaces in all industries. . This month we feature vintage clothing brand Bentgablenits.
The trio behind vintage clothing brand Bentgablenits are obsessive collectors. Their sustainable approach to clothing comes from a common fixation on old stuff: assorted trinkets, men’s designer clothes, stuffed birds, dollhouse miniatures. “You start your addiction to flea markets, and it continues,” says co-founder Brenda Bent. She launched the brand in 2019 with Karen Gable, her longtime partner in an interior design firm, and Angelo Nitsopoulos, a family friend. The tongue-twisting nickname – BGN for short – is an amalgamation of their surnames.
BGN has produced a handful of unique collections to date, all crafted from pre-loved garments, fabrics, hardware and trims. The magic happens in a spacious workspace on the second floor of Bent’s home in downtown Toronto, which is overflowing with hawk-eyed salvage fruits. Vintage textiles peek out from the tops of wine-packed crates on shelves that line the walls almost floor to ceiling. They come from private suppliers and wholesalers specializing in rag-picking. Tucked between the materials are boxes and trays filled with odds and ends: lace handles, dozens of uniform decals, and miniature dollhouse rugs. “We have millions of vintage threads and embroideries – really everything that is handmade,” says Bent.
Bent and Gable are fashion industry veterans who ran the Bent Boys and Zapata labels respectively in the mid-1980s before teaming up to focus on interiors. Among their projects are renowned restaurants in Toronto, including Rosalinda for chef Grant van Gameren and Luckee, Bent and Kid Lee for Bent’s husband, star chef Susur Lee.
Nitsopoulos, meanwhile, befriended Bent’s three sons after playing on the eldest’s recreational hockey team. Like so many fashion-conscious guys in their twenties, he’s a devotee of drop culture: a consumer subculture built around collecting, swapping, and reselling limited-edition streetwear.
The trio’s leap from collectors to collaborators was a bit of a fluke. One night at the Bent-Lee’s, Nitsopoulos noticed Bent and Gable putting the finishing touches on a handmade birthday present for a friend: a vintage Nike sweatshirt with their own large velor swoosh on it. It seemed like the kind of item that streetwear collectors would be queuing up for.
At Nitsopoulos’ suggestion, the women put together a series of 10 custom Nike tops. Somewhere along the line, one of the Bent-Lee brothers sent a picture of the goods to Drake (he’s a friend), who bought six and posted a picture on social media. The rest sold out within minutes.
The roles of directors were established from the outset. Bent and Gable handle design and production while Nitsopoulos leads brand building and promotion, primarily on social media and primarily aimed at drop-culture aficionados known as hypebeasts. The scene’s online style bible (also called Hypebeast) has tracked BGN’s movements from the very beginning, charting its collaborations with established brands. BGN recycled vintage Levi’s 501s and trucker jackets with floral designs made from deadstock yarn. They custom made silk velvet pouches to hold Byredo perfumes. They now source vintage Mickey Mouse and co. costume for a collaboration with Disney.
Working with a luxury fashion house is the ultimate goal; its dream partners are Prada and Comme des Garçons. Until then, BGN is having fun in its current home – a workspace, a hub, and a mess of treasures. “It’s just a matter of the love of things,” Gable says.