benny andallo junya watanabe virtual insanity hat

This Filipino-British Designer Remixed The Jamiroquai Virtual Insanity Hat For Junya Watanabe

Is it 1996 all over again?

In an homage to the award-winning music video for Virtual Insanity, Junya Watanabe re-interprets its sense of cool, topping it all off with the fun, fresh, and funky hats by Filipino-British designer, Benny Andallo.

When you type “Jamiroquai Virtual Insanity” on Google, the search will not only yield a list that ranges from the prophecy-like nature of the song lyrics to the enduring relevance of the futuristic music video helmed by Jonathan Glazer, but also relevant related results for the hat. Well ahead of its time in a relatively blissful pre-Y2K era, the delightfully danceable fusion of funk, acid jazz, and nu disco was not only a generational stronghold with its insightful introspection and critical observation of an evolving human condition, but it also was a rich source of cultural imprints that are still relevant to this day. This impact was the driving force behind the imagination of Junya Watanabe for his fall 2022 menswear collection, which was released as a fashion remix of sorts, over the top hats and all.

Together with Jamiroquai frontman himself, Jay Kay, Junya Watanabe breathed new life to the style codes of Virtual Insanity. In this contemporary telling, the nonchalance of the 90s was well in place, as realized in the oversized athleisure and statement toppers that would make the Cat In The Hat proud, but this time more mindful and respectful to the traditions it borrows from.

Thoughtful in approach, the Tokyo-based designer said in the show’s press release, “in order to realize some of our ideas, we invited the participation from the Secretariat of Culture of Mexico, as well as the renowned Pendleton Woolen Mills.” This way appropriation was well avoided under the watchful eyes of those dedicated to “the preservation, promotion, and dissemination of heritage and culture diversity.”

This Is The Remix

This was by no means a replication of what things were fashion-wise, but Junya Watanabe certainly captures the energy of Virtual Insanity fit for the future. From denim decorated with patchwork, paneled functional outerwear, and striking sweaters incorporating the eye-catching colors and fringe of the Mexican sarape (blanket-like cloak), as well as of the Native American patterns, the pieces felt cool and current, which was underscored the inherent restraint and meticulousness of the brand. And to complete the look made signature by Jay Kay, Junya Watanabe commissioned Filipino-British designer, Benny Andallo to punctuate the collection with an assortment of his wildly imaginative statement hats.

Fun, funky, and fresh, there is a sense of child-like joy that emanates from the work of Benny Andallo, who instead of being limited in the convention of millinery describes himself as a silly crown designer. “That’s so old school; I’m actually quite anti-that,” he tells Vogue in an interview. There is a decided defiance and disruption to the pieces that the Filipino-British creative fashions. From out-of-this-world imaginations, a riot of textures and colors, and a whimsical vision, we reckon that his plush pieces would drive the Mad Hatter in Alice In Wonderland over the edge in excitement. In fact, his designs have been worn and favored by the likes of Rihanna, Miley Cyrus, Beabadoobee, Olly Alexander, and CL, no big deal.

“I always want to make a hat that I could wear on a night out,” continues Benny Andallo in the same conversation. “My intention always goes back to looking and feeling fab.” But more than the playground of head accessories, which the Central Saint Martins-trained designer fondly calls adult toys, the foundation of his creations lie in consideration and intuition.“I make every hat myself and make design decisions as I go; it’s very instinctive,” he says. “Creativity keeps your mind stimulated and distracted from the current bleakness. I have an urge to create for brighter days of the future.” 

Hats Off

“I was making hats for myself out of different scraps of fabrics; I had loads of fabrics from university and from [fabric] hunting,” recalls Benny Andallo, who began this design focus because he wanted to spice things up. “Everything is spontaneous. I’ve accumulated so much fabric, so I work with whatever I have, unless someone orders custom.” Working with this conscious limitation is a parallel to what Junya Watanabe employs in his exploration of Virtual Insanity. In this fashion jam session, the collection includes upcycled and original garments from Jay Kay, Pendleton Woolen Mills, Levi’s, New Balance, Karrimor, Carhartt, and Stepnew Works Club, which is a step up in terms of sustainability. Fittingly, this further informs the synergy of the two designers in terms of comprehension and commitment to the future.

Completing the reenactment, the parade of looks was brought to life in the same way it did in 1996, dizzying in its shifts, slides, and steps. However, unlike the award-winning music video that helped stand the ground of Jamiroquai, the modern-day iteration was more sterile than industrial. With a brightly lit hall of white tiles, the vibrant and visceral vision of Junya Watanabe shimmied in the same style of Jay Kay, soundtracked to Virtual Insanity, of course. And just like it did then, the hats that complemented were a standout. From the mind of Benny Andallo, the solitary overgrown hat expanded into eye-popping woolly and wonky domes, printed baker crowns, and the not-to-be-missed fuzzy toppers.

Despite what one might assume, this intersection of time, points-of-view, and disciplines oddly makes sense. In this meeting of minds, what began as a throwback has been thrust into a proposition that will have multiple generations gravitating towards this virtual insanity. After all, not much has changed. We’re all still mad here.