Facing the biggest test of his career, Gvasalia brought a heightened dignity to his own revolutionary vision of 21st-century people while simultaneously honoring the greatest couturier of the 20th century. Hence, the audible gasps. This was recognizable Demna and recognizable Cristóbal in one. “It was my minute of silence to the heritage of Cristóbal Balenciaga but also a moment of silence to just shut up for a minute,” he said. “The pandemic made me take that minute of silence—or few months of silence—and really understand what I like in this ‘metier,’ as Cristóbal used to call it,” he said. “And I realized it’s not about fashion—actually, I love clothes. I’ve been talking about clothes, clothes, clothes rather than fashion.”

Demnaologists will know that’s why he originally started Vetements in 2014, on a mission to produce a wardrobe with a sense of generic authenticity yet crucially coded with the sociological irony that was instantly read, loved, and bought by the then marginalized generation of millennials. The power of that talent is what took him to the creative directorship of Balenciaga in the first place.