Only 3 percent of French women unquestioningly follow fashion-industry dictates, Axel Madsen concedes, but this repetitious, disjointed, hyped-up glimpse of ""haute couture"" would hardly fascinate even those loyalists. (Paris fashion shows, typically, inspire ""the goose pimples of being where the now is being amplified."") While concentrating on Yves Saint Laurent, today's ""most influential designer,"" Madsen covers other aspects of the industry: its history, beginning with Empress Eugâ€šnie's designer Charles Worth; the current dominance of ""ready-to-wear"" (YSL proclaims that ""haute couture ends with me""); the business of licensing designer names; the role of other fashion leaders (Cardin is struggling to remain ""meaningful"" to the young). As for Saint Laurent, ""he loves dance, theater, breakfast in bed, unusual people and objects,"" recites Proust, lives with Pierre Bergâ€š (""business partner and intimate""), finds younger women boring compared with 30-year-olds (""when artifice begins""), and frequents psychiatric clinics. We follow him through his Algerian childhood (""a limpet adolescent""), his career with Dior, and the establishment of his own house; we watch him create (from first sketch to finished garment), and we learn some business details (menswear is YSL's most profitable area). But Madsen repeats himself throughout, name-drops incessantly (Radziwill, Deneuve, Jagger, etc.), and insists on a year-by-year recital of past fashions. As appealing as a midi-skirt.