Words: Deidre Dyer

Photography: Taran Sodhi

Toronto-based Bentgablenits have made a name for themselves by breathing new life into vintage sportswear, using delicate trimmings and patchwork embellishments. Before joining forces, Brenda Bent and Karen Gable were successful interior designers who reimagined restaurants, hotels and private residences. Once they connected with Angelo “Nits” Nitsopoulos, a sportswear and sneaker aficionado, it became clear that they had individual creative prowess worth combining. Together, they specialize in making one-of-one garments that feel simultaneously timeless and of-the-moment.

To commemorate the new cohort of WNBA athletes to join the Jordan Brand family — Satou Sabally, Te’a Cooper, Dearica Hamby, Jordin Canada and Crystal Dangerfield — Bentgablenits was commissioned to create bespoke sweatsuits for the new signees. These classic Air Jordan sweatsuits have been reimagined with intricate crochet trimmings and velvet lining. True to the Bentgablenits ethos, the pieces unite old-school craftsmanship, modern-day sportswear and sustainably-minded upcycling.

Here, Nits, Brenda and Karen share their creative process and how they’re celebrating Jordan Brand’s WNBA family members with this special commission.

Bentgablenits has created a specific aesthetic through your mix of fabric and craft methods. What informs the choices that have made the brand’s signature, tactile aesthetic?

Brenda: Well, we’ve spent many years collecting a variety of things. Every time we approach a project, we draw on those pieces for inspiration. Craftsmanship has always been a part of everything we do.

What led you to specific crafts like crochet and needlepoint?

Brenda: It’s the element of handmade, which isn’t really done anymore. Over the years, when we’ve been looking for things that we appreciate, we’ve gone to flea markets. Now, we have the ability to shop the same way online. And once you find something you like, you can source more of it.

Karen: We’ve always been drawn to craftsmanship. Who in this day and age can spend 40 hours making a doily? Who has the time? Nobody. It’s a dying art. By putting things like doilies on worthy garments, we find that they just go together, in a sense. We’re always trying to mix the vintage look with something modern, so there’s always a play on that. You can take a simple sweatshirt wherever you want it to go.

With interior design, you create for visual impact, that moment of first stepping into a room and seeing the space. How has this attention to visual impact affected your approach to fashion design?

Brenda: First and foremost, Karen and I were actually fashion designers. We both originally went to school for fashion design. Then, by circumstance, we ended up getting into interiors. We were asked to do a couple of places, and then that led to other jobs. Going back to fashion happened because of our friendship with Nits. It wasn’t intentional. We’d probably still be interior designers had we not met up with Nits. In the end, it felt like a seamless transition, because in both mediums, we’re creating excitement and a mood.

Thinking of how you came together as a trio, with your respective backgrounds in interior design, fashion and vintage sportswear, how would you describe the intergenerational creativity and synergy of Bentgablenits?

Karen: The age difference between us is pretty exciting. Nits brings a modern approach to things. He’s always been great at sourcing and has his own style. Brenda and I bring the craft and fashion background.

Nits: I always say that it’s two worlds colliding. It’s definitely a unique story and a union of design knowledge. It’s the perfect storm, really.

Walk us through the general sourcing process for Bentgablenits. Where do you look for inspiration when it comes to sweatshirt materials or the types of vintage cotton you look for?

Nits: When we first started sourcing, it was hard, because you have to go to so many different people. Items aren’t just in one location. Luckily enough, we developed a very good connection with someone in L.A. who sources different sweaters from all over. It became a lot easier, in terms of materials. It’s hard to replicate nowadays — taking a new sweater from a factory and making it look vintage. It’s just not the same as a sweater from the ‘80s or ‘90s that has the natural sun fade, color distress and otherwise to get the same look. That’s what we go for when we source our vintage pieces.

How does it feel to officially work with Jordan Brand and use the Jumpman logo on your pieces?

Nits: It’s definitely an honor. It’s very unique and cool on many levels. The Jumpman logo is iconic; it’s arguably the most iconic logo in culture. This is a fun moment to work together.

You’ve developed distinct themes for each capsule collection. Examples include channeling the circus vibe into Carnival chore jackets or children’s fairy tales into reworked cashmere sweaters. How did the design process for these Jordan pieces differ from previous capsules?

Brenda: Well, the Jordan Brand pieces posed a whole bunch of questions that we hadn’t thought about before. We had never done anything for a group of athletes, so there were many different elements to consider. How do you make the players feel special? How do you create a look that works for all of them? How do you apply vintage things to a new sweatshirt? How do we honor the Jordan Brand as well as its family of athletes? We chose to keep it simple and easy to wash.

Karen: When creating for these phenomenal players, the biggest things for us were wearability and durability. We always ask, is it practical? Can they wear it every day? If they wash it, will it start falling apart? When they wear it, will it stretch? Ultimately, like we said earlier, we focused on making everything special and fit for these athletes.

What’s next for Bentgablenits?

Nits: Just elevating what we do in any way possible, whether it’s new projects or new collaborations. We’ve loved working with Jordan Brand, especially as they work to spotlight women like these WNBA players and also cultural leaders like Aleali May and Melody Ehsani. As we move forward, we hope to do the same and also just trust what we do. There’s also a sustainable message and ethos that we try to spread as it relates to reusing materials and garments as much as we can to help save the environment.

The Bentgablenits commissioned sweatsuits for Jordan Brand’s WNBA family members are player exclusive and will not go to retail. Learn more about Satou Sabally, Te’a Cooper, Dearica Hamby, Jordin Canada and Crystal Dangerfield joining Jordan Brand here.