This Canadian Designer On Creating Avant-Garde Looks with Vintage Items

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Photography courtesy of gorm

Bianca Daniela Nachtman of GORM talks sustainable design, cowboy hats and Pride month.

When Bianca Daniela Nachtman, the founder of the gender-fluid clothing brand GORM, needs fabric for a piece she’s working on, she doesn’t just go to her local fabric store. Instead, she spends hours, usually three or four, in thrift stores looking for any type of material she thinks she can work with.

The Toronto-based designer, known for reviving vintage cowboy hats, has found fixings, buttons, zippers, fringe and other types of material that can easily be overlooked by the average thrift shopper. It’s also where she finds inspiration for many of her pieces. For a recent collection, “Sleepless In…”, she was inspired by vintage bedding and pillows which she ended up creating the entire collection with.

a model wears a gorm white dress and headpiece with white gloves
Photography courtesy of gorm

“When I’m walking around the thrift store, I’ll see a certain item, like the shape of a pillow or the folding of a lamp, and I’ll get inspiration from it,” Nachtman tells FASHION. “It allows these items that were once forgotten to live another life and tell another story.”

Despite what it might seem like, sourcing material from vintage stores isn’t an easy part of the job. “I’m in these vintage stores like five times a week for hours at a time,” she says. Sometimes visiting seven stores in a day, Nachtman prefers to travel outside of the GTA to to find the best stuff. “I go all over the place. I go to London, I go to Hamilton, I go to Brantford, Kitchener, Guelph, Cambridge. Anywhere that’s within like a three hour radius of Toronto.”

Below, the designer behind the delightfully indulgent GORM talks about Pride month, her tips for styling a cowboy hat and the five things currently bringing her joy.

How would you describe the style of GORM in three words?

Avant-garde, unique and campy.

What is something about your brand that would surprise people?

A lot of the time, it’s just me doing everything. Creating everything, sourcing everything. I shot my whole last lookbook, I edited it all and I like to cast the models.

model wears a blonde wig that obscures their face and sunglasses with a vintage cowboy hat and black blazer. they are surrounded by antiques
Photography courtesy of gorm

What’s the piece that has taken the most time to create?

I recently created a puffer trench coat with a long tail, like a train, for Savannah Ré. They were singing the national anthem at the CFL…That took a lot of time because it was a lot of puffy fabric to stuff through a tiny machine and I had to quilt it. I also created a custom look for Cerena recently. She’s a local Toronto popstar  and we created these looks for different moods she usually feels. One was happy, one was sad. The sad one was a big black tulle dress with lots to deal with. It had a plush sad face on it with a boa that had these plush rings like teardrops so, when you’re holding it, it looks like the dress is crying. I would say that one took a long time to create, the tulle with all the tiny teardrops and stuff like that. Those are probably the top two.

Your brand’s tagline is “For the Gormandizers of fashion.” Who do you picture when you think of a fashion “gormandizer”?

Someone in my head that’s constantly a gormandizer is someone who is genuinely passionate about fashion. They don’t have to spend $1,000 on something. They just kind of get it. They know it. They put on the outfit. It’s something that I wouldn’t say necessarily consumes them, but it strikes a chord in them.

a model wears a pink cowboy hat with a cutout heart at the front and long strings. They also have on a red bra and underwear with long oversized red gloves

What does Pride mean to you and how do you celebrate it?

I would say Pride means being authentic. A lot of my life I was really hiding who I was and just not being true to myself. Even though a lot of people say Pride is all year round, I think that Pride month allows us to be ourselves. At least we have a specific month where we’re reminded how far we’ve come and how much work it takes to be comfortable with who we are. It gives us this whole moment to celebrate it. Pride lets us kind of live in this month of truly judgment-less space. We get to be who we are and turn it up a notch. We can put it in everyone’s faces a little bit and just be happy.

How would you describe Toronto’s style?

The designers that are coming out of Toronto in this generation are extremely impressive and expressive. I’m always surprised by what’s coming out of here. The designers and their style are things that you would expect to see in New York and in LA or London. Just coming from my community and the people who I associate with, the style that I see is becoming its own thing. You can finally look at something and say “oh, this is the Toronto style, it’s unique.” There’s a lot of people who are layering different thrifted items and you see a huge thing for sustainability. A lot of designers are recycling fabric and there’s a lot of shape to it. You can tell that a lot of the people, at least who I run with, are really themselves and are just being expressive and carefree. The designers of that young category, like under 35, are really putting Toronto on the map and giving everyone a run for their money.

a blue cowboy hat with long beads
Photography courtesy of gorm

What’s your top tip for styling/wearing a cowboy hat?

Hats are like the cherry on top for a look. It really can elevate and complement it. But, I would say my hats are quite the look itself. You can have something a little bit more muted but then have one of my cowboy hats just elevate the look and bring it there. They’re quite extravagant and they’re quite a lot so it can seem hard to wear, but you have to just own it. Just put it on and step out the door. Cowboy hats just look good on everyone.

Favourite and least favourite trend?

Personally, I’m not the biggest trend person. I feel like lately we’re focusing a lot on what’s trending and what’s not trending…I don’t think I have a favourite or least favourite. I feel like, if anything, a lot of people should wear what they feel like whenever they feel like it, regardless of whether it’s trending or not. It also contributes a lot to the consumption issue that we’re having because people are buying certain things because it’s trendy and then they’re ditching it later on because it’s not trendy anymore.

What are five items that are bringing you joy right now?

Tapestry fabric. Any kind of vintage tapestry fabric. Love it.

Candlesticks, vintage candlesticks and candleholders. I’m obsessed, I have like a whole staircase full of them.

Meditation. It’s gonna hopefully bring me a lot more joy in my life.

Martini glasses. I’m a collector of vintage martini glasses. Or just like any type of coloured stemware, I collect all of it.

My industrial sewing machine. My Yuki DDL 878 700. Every time I use it, it brings me so much joy. It really does.