With all the art referencing on display this week—and particularly today—Jean-Charles de Castelbajac's vibrant exploration of his own art could not have been more on-message. Backstage, he fervently pointed out that fashion and art have always been indistinguishable in his work. The trend we're seeing now, he added assertively, is the outcome of everyone else catching up.

Rather than debating who did it first or even who's done it best, what matters most in this moment is that de Castelbajac lives to create. How else to explain the backdrop projection that showed him painting a dress in real time while his models walked the room? It appeared as the final look, still wet. The runway music, produced by Mr. Nô, featured the designer's voice identifying all those who make the industry go round: "We are models/We are journalists/We are buyers/We are stylists/We are bookers…." It oozed with Zoolander camp, but the concept came from a sincere place. This was de Castelbajac as fashion's poet laureate.

His poems could also be read on the clothes. Most were barely decipherable, as if the designer were speaking in tongues. But printed atop silk organza caftans and linen separates, they balanced lightness with graphic impact. Layers of habutai silk were even lighter, to suggest the pages of a notebook.

Whether deliberate or not, there were detectable art references: the Ellsworth Kelly palette of red, green, and blue or Brancusi-esque kissing faces. The gold grouping of laminated silk and satin evoked the sculptor, too. Despite the high shine, it was also the least compelling. Smaller details—thick black soldered rubber stitching like marker outlines and trompe l'oeil touches—spoke loudest. The collection could have benefited from more finesse. Then again, de Castelbajac has also reached a point at which his perseverance is unbridled.