This is a sensitively written, well-researched account of a pivotal point in the history of fashion. Drake takes as her starting point the co-incidence that a young Yves Saint Laurent and Karl Lagerfeld both took prizes in the International Wool Secretariat competition in 1954 and then charts their careers through the 1960s, 70s and 80s.
Her main achievement in this book is her fairness. It would be easy to take sides with one of the designers over the other (who would be a matter of very personal choice, they are both equally likeable and dislikeable characters), but Drake does not do this and manages to convey a level of respect and, in the end, affection for them both which is coloured by extensive interviews that she carried out with friends and colleagues of the two designers. There is a section in the middle which seems almost endless about the drug-addled night-time exploits of the cast of hangers-on which could have been cut down as it doesn't add too much to the reader's understanding of the two men, but there's no doubt that it provides interesting detail of a period that, although still so close, is now long gone.
The only small criticism I had of this book is that fact that sometimes when you were reading a massive chunk about YSL you tended to forget that KL was even part of the book, and vice versa. Possibly Drake could have moved between them both a little more frequently, particularly at the beginning where YSL's early life and career tend to go on forever, however, I almost feel guilty writing that as these chunks in themselves were highly engrossing.
I would have liked to have seen more photographs too, especially of YSL's legendary 1970s haute couture collections.
And who did I end up by liking? It's got to be Kaiser Karl, you can't deny the man's staying power and his work ethic.
A highly recommended book.