For the latest instalment of the COS x Serpentine Nights summer programme, artistic director Hans-Ulrich Obrist invited London-based menswear designer Kiko Kostadinov to host an evening in collaboration with London anonymous collective vanillajellaba.
The latter collaborator is an elusive figure; no one knows whether vanillajellaba is male or female, or rather, who they are at all. Their Instagram account is a constantly updated yet simultaneously deleted stream of sartorial shots taken in unassuming domestic interiors, featuring the anonymous figure swathed up in so many layers of fabric that their identity is literally obscured. This is fashion that harks back to self-staged performance art, and it’s got industry heroes watching; Virgil Abloh, Mel Ottenberg (Rihanna’s stylist), Nick Knight and countless others are all followers of the account.
The evening of Friday 17 August was wet and miserable, with legions of Kiko devotees arriving at Hyde Park in colourless outfits and loosely fitted pants, many with stiff canvas tote bags slung over their shoulders. The event took place underneath the annually reimagined Serpentine Pavilion, designed this year by Japanese architect Junya Ishigami. The structure itself was an open air, singular undulating canopy assembled from jagged sheets of slate, allowing for panoramic views of the park.
Cushy mattress toppers were tied around white vertical poles supporting the roof, while visitors milled around computer screens showing short films of vanillajellaba removing stuffing from duvets, head-banging in a pink balaclava or casually hanging washing on a rack. Guests were washed in pink light from overhead while eerie piano renditions played over the speakers, punctuated only by chopped and screwed trap music and occasional rainfall. A particularly unsettling video depicted vanillajellaba pushing themselves up against a stuffed white sculpture resembling a woman, slowly rocking back and forth.
The installation was said to develop around ‘the translation of everyday consumerism and ordinary occurrences through a distorted lens.’ In bringing a dose of domestic absurdity to the Serpentine’s summer programme, Kiko has further established himself as a pleasingly unpredictable designer pushing against the very confines of this archetypal label.