Workspace of the Month: Inside the Drake-Approved Vintage-Clothing Brand Bentgablenits

The Toronto-based label is known for its hype-making drops
The trio behind the brand: Brenda Bent, Karen Gable and Angelo Nitsopoulos (photography: Erin Leydon)

In our Workspace series, CB is featuring interesting, smart-designed and one-of-a-kind spaces across Canada. From innovative home offices to out-of-the-box co-working spaces to unconventional setups—like this beauty company run out of a rural farmhouse—we are looking to showcase the most unique and beautiful spaces from all industries. This month we are profiling vintage-clothing brand, Bentgablenits.

The trio behind the vintage-clothing brand Bentgablenits are obsessive collectors. Their sustainable take on apparel comes from a shared fixation on old stuff: assorted knick-knacks, designer menswear, taxidermied birds, dollhouse miniatures. “You start your addiction at flea markets, and it just carries on,” says co-founder Brenda Bent. She launched the label in 2019 with Karen Gable, her long-time partner in an interior-design practice, and Angelo Nitsopoulos, a family friend. The tongue-twisting moniker—BGN for short—is an amalgam of their last names.

A photo of jeans inside Bentgablenits's workspace
The firm recently collaborated with Levi’s, adorning pairs of 501s with floral motifs made from deadstock yarn

BGN has produced a handful of one-of-a-kind collections to date, all of them fabricated from preloved garments, fabrics, hardware and trims. The magic happens in a roomy workspace located on the second floor of Bent’s downtown Toronto home, which overflows with the fruits of hawk-eyed scavenging. Vintage textiles poke out from the tops of wine crates packed onto shelves that line the walls nearly floor to ceiling. They’re sourced from private vendors and wholesalers that specialize in ragpicking. Tucked between the materials are boxes and trays filled with odds and ends: handfuls of lace, scores of uniform decals and miniature carpets for dollhouses. “We have millions of vintage threads and embroidery—really anything made by hand,” says Bent.

Bent and Gable are fashion-industry veterans who ran the labels Bent Boys and Zapata, respectively, in the mid-1980s before teaming up to focus on interiors. Among their projects are high-profile restaurants in Toronto, including Rosalinda for chef Grant van Gameren and Luckee, Bent and Kid Lee for Bent’s husband, star chef Susur Lee.

A mood board inside Bentgablenits's workspace
BGN’s mood board includes old photographs, vintage celluloid necklaces and First Communion purses from the 1920s

Nitsopoulos, meanwhile, befriended Bent’s three sons after playing on the eldest’s recreational hockey team. Like so many fashion conscious guys in their 20s, he’s a follower of drop culture: a consumer subculture built around collecting, trading and reselling limited edition releases of streetwear.

The threesome’s leap from collectors to collaborators was something of a fluke. One evening at the Bent-Lee household, Nitsopoulos noticed Bent and Gable putting the finishing touches on a handmade birthday present for a friend: a vintage Nike sweatshirt onto which they’d affixed their own large velvet swoosh. It seemed like the kind of item streetwear collectors would line up for.

At Nitsopoulos’s suggestion, the women assembled a run of 10 customized Nike tops. Somewhere along the line, one of the Bent-Lee brothers sent a photo of the wares to Drake (he’s a friend), who bought six of them and posted a photo on social media. The rest sold out in minutes.

A drawer of trimmings inside of Bentgablenits's workspace
The partners have collected thousands of these crocheted flower trimmings

The principals’ roles were established from the start. Bent and Gable handle the design and production while Nitsopoulos steers brand building and promotion, mostly on social media and primarily targeted at the drop-culture aficionados known as hypebeasts. The scene’s online style bible (also called Hypebeast) has tracked BGN’s moves from the very start, charting its collaborations with established brands. BGN upcycled vintage Levi’s 501s and trucker jackets with floral motifs made from deadstock yarns. They custom-made silk-velvet pouches to hold Byredo fragrances. They’re now sourcing vintage Mickey Mouse and co. garb for a collaboration with Disney.

Working with a luxury fashion house is the ultimate goal; dream partners include Prada and Comme des Garçons. Until then, BGN is having fun in their actual house—a workspace, a hub and a mess of treasures. “It’s just about a love of stuff,” says Gable.

Baby blocks inside of Bentgablenits's workspace
These antique baby blocks are part of the founders’ curio collection