05/06/2011 02:38 pm ET Updated Jul 06, 2011

L'Amour Fou : The Fashion of Yves St. Laurent and Alexander McQueen

In a new documentary L'Amour Fou about the iconic Yves St. Laurent, it is hard to tell just what is the object of that besotted state: his work, his substantial art collection, his posh homes in Paris, Marrakech and Normandy, opulently decorated with antiques and woven fabrics.

From the perspective of Pierre Berge, St. Laurent's lifelong companion, the film is perhaps an expression of the businessman's own mad devotion to the bespectacled designer who defined fashion in the mid century. In his view, YSL was an aloof workaholic, obsessed with sex and drugs, ambivalent to fame, and mainly depressed. Berge's own place in YSL's life comes off as more business than pleasure. This is not the ebullient Valentino and Giancarlo Giametti.

Last Sunday at a special screening at MoMA followed by an extravagant Moroccan-themed dinner hosted by Vera Wang at her East Side duplex, Gina Gershon, Kyle McLanahan, Martha Stewart, recent Oscar-winning directors Tom Hooper and Karen Goodman enjoyed the food and Wang's hospitality. Many complimented the designer best know for wedding dresses, clad casually in a sequined vest, on her lovely apartment. I hope she wasn't feeling apologetic when she pointed out the decor was not Yves St. Laurent.

On the heels of Britain's royal wedding and the gown crafted at the late designer's studio by Sarah Burton, The Metropolitan Museum's Costume Institute opened a retrospective of Alexander McQueen's work: room upon trippy room, mannequins display his designs in sculpted wood, leathers, feathers, faux fur, vintage fabrics, a magnificent state of the art exhibit called Savage Beauty. Like YSL, McQueen was an artist whose personal demons remain a mystery. The MET exhibition reveals an aesthetic closer to Mapplethorpe than to other fashion designers, with much that would challenge anyone's wardrobe: sculptural headdresses, a backpiece in wood mimicking the spine of a bird, billowy parachute silk coats.

Seizing the moment, I wore a McQueen jacket to the viewing, an asymmetrical piece with large shoulders from 1997, that looks like a classic blazer on one side, and has a long lapel on the other, so that from one silhouette it appears to have a wing. I was surprised to see a twin of my jacket in the first gallery alongside a quote from McQueen stating: "I want to empower women. I want people to fear the women I dress." He had called the jacket "Dante." I learned from the excellent catalogue with its hologram cover, many works were named for the writer of The Divine Comedy.

Curator Andrew Bolton, longtime friend Stella McCartney with whom McQueen learned how to tailor on Savile Row, and Sarah Burton were on hand to answer questions. No one was permitted to discuss Kate Middleton's dress.

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