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I wanted to tell you about one of my favorite Instagram accounts, @Vanillajellaba, so I reached out through DM for an interview. They (Vanillajellaba’s real identity and gender isn’t known) responded a couple days later with a heart emoji. When I clicked into my messages, though, it was gone — leaving only a grid of pictures to dissect, feel inspired by, and love.
The account’s bizarre images have attracted more than 10,000 followers. Let’s get really high school for a second and go through the list: Followers include designers like Virgil Abloh of Off-White, Wil Fry, Errolson Hugh of Acronym, Patrik Ervell, and A$AP Mob member A$AP Nast. GQ Style’s Noah Johnson, former Four Pins writer Jon Moy, the New York Times’s Jon Caramanica, and the Wall Street Journal’s Jacob Gallagher are all also fans.
(As for me, I discovered the account when Gallagher tweeted in March: “Instagram was created so we could all experience the legend that is Vanillajellaba.”)
Vanillajellaba (herein known as VJ) is a riddle wrapped in an enigma wrapped in, well, literally everything. The account name might be inspired by a song of the same name from the British electronic artist Muslimgauze’s 1995 album, Izlamaphobia. Or maybe the name is inspired by the word djellaba, which refers to unisex robes worn in northern Africa. Or maybe it’s just nonsense.
VJ posts photos of themself wrapped head to toe in layers and layers of clothing. Denim, puffed-up jackets, florals, and something you might mistake for a duster have all starred in VJ’s photos. A cat also makes frequent cameos.
The posts are usually just photos, but videos have recently been added to the mix. One video shows VJ dumping out a watering can in reverse. In another, they’re eating a cookie while crumbs spill down a purple shirt, disorienting music playing in the background. The images are highly meme-able, as evidenced by this Four Pins tweet or friends who bounce phrases like “MOOD” or “when you don’t answer my texts” back and forth in the comments section. You can’t ignore this when considering VJ’s popularity.
Despite attention from the streetwear world, VJ only follows 350 people and would not have lasted long in the Myspace Top Eight era. Meme accounts like NoChill and FuckJerry TV sit next to Cell Project Space, an East London art space that lately has just been posting close-up images of mealworms. Seriously.
Here are other things we think we know: VJ seems to be friendly with Acronym’s Hugh, who has reposted images of them wearing his collaborative shoes with Nike, and they follow each other on Instagram. There was also a rumor that VJ was actually wunderkind menswear designer Kiko Kostadinov, but they’re definitely just friends who text each other about the industry “becoming boring af.” (They also styled a cover of British mag Wire together.) It’s possible, but not likely, that VJ runs another, much less popular account called @chocolatejellaba. Beyond that, there’s not much info out there.
Part of the reason VJ is great, though, is because of the anonymity. When everything else is stripped away, all that’s left are the clothes. Like the denim bomber piled on top of a denim blouse, distressed jeans, and sneakers that look like Converse covered with shreds of denim. Or the pieced-together lace in red, brown, pink, and beige that obscures VJ’s face while they hold a bouquet of the leftovers.
In a world where Instagram celebrities shill everything from laxative teas to teeth whiteners, there's something incredibly unique about someone who just wants to wrap their face in rubber masks and potential beekeeper suits every couple of days.
One of the best accounts to follow on Instagram is Vanillajellaba. This is my opinion, but it’s also true.