Is This the Solution to One of Fashion’s Most Perplexing Mysteries?

@Vanillajellaba, the popular weird fashion Instagram account, made (another) victorious return yesterday. The account, which is mostly comprised of images of its unknown owner (or owners), has elevated the art of layering clothing to a new level. Vanillajellaba’s identity has long piqued the interest of the account’s 18,000 followers, and the account deletes all of its postings on a regular basis. Another wipe-and-return happened this week. However, this latest incarnation may provide some insight into who is behind the account, at least for the time being.

Vanillajellaba reappeared recently with a new feature: the “Maria Calvia” profile name. I determined that at the very least, I had to try to learn more about this long-running mystery.

A simple Google search for the name yielded little information. But I knew that Vanillajellaba has long been associated with wunderkind designer Kiko Kostadinov. According to Vogue, one of the account’s relaunch was “a ‘takeover’ of Kostadinov’s Fall 2018 collection” in the spring of 2017. Vanillajellaba and Kostadinov also cooperated on an event at London’s Serpentine Pavilion.

So I Googled “Maria Calvia Kiko Kostadinov,” which yielded, perhaps expected but certainly startlingly, results. I discovered a LinkedIn profile for a person named Paride Calvia, who claims Kiko Kostadinov as their employer. Now, listen up! Searching for “Paride Maria Calvia” didn’t take much more work, and it provided another useful result. I’d never been more delighted to visit a Blogspot page than when I found the one for Subsubtropics Records, a now-defunct music company formed in the summer of 2010. Vinicius Duarte and…Paride Maria Calvia are listed as the label’s founders on the website. So, who is Paride Maria Calvia, and what is her story? And how do they relate to Vanillajellaba?

Here’s what I came up with: Calvia appears to have worked with and/or for Kiko Kostadinov for a long time. Calvia has worked as a photographer alongside Kostadinov and has generated playlists and audio loops for his runway presentations. Calvia also appears in a group portrait of Kiko Kostadinov employees, albeit in the shadows. So far, I’d determined that a Paride Maria Calvia works at Kiko Kostadinov, a company with whom the Vanillajellaba account has long been affiliated.

Even still, this was not conclusive proof. When I inquired if the designer would be prepared to comment on the person behind the account and the chance that it was Paride Calvia, I sent a direct message to Vanillajellaba, and the PR agency that represents Kostadinov responded back the GIF below.

“Kiko won’t be able to remark on that because he won’t even inform us!” the spokesman stated.

But there was more tea-leaf reading to be done. Calvia collaborates closely with Kostadinov, but they also work on independent projects. Calvia’s editorial appears to incorporate some of Vanillajellaba’s signature layering and anything-can-be-a-wrap instincts. A succession of stitched-together bulky wool sweaters drapes from the model’s hip in the photo. Calvia collaborated with model Dylan Moran on another shot that contains bizarre jeans that are evocative of Vanillajellaba’s own denim era. The final line of my Sherlock Holmes monologue: there is only one video on a Youtube account related with Calvia. The warped and disorienting (and frankly unsettling) style of the short film is reminiscent of Vanillajellaba’s bizarre videos.

Even if Calvia is the person behind this current iteration of Vanillajellaba, there are reasons to suspect that they haven’t always been the handle’s owner. The Instagram account was controlled by a “unknown collective,” according to the event description between Kostadinov and Vanillajellaba. “One with a dainty, modelesque stance, the other slightly more crouched, aggressive,” Steff Yotka wrote for Vogue in 2018—”One with a dainty, modelesque posture, the other slightly more hunched, aggressive.”

It is not necessary to know who is behind Vanillajellaba in order to enjoy the account. Part of the fun of following the story is how odd and surreal it seems—that these garments could have been transmitted from another world. Even yet, it’s always great to put a name to a balaclava-wearing, wrapped-up face.

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