Marrakech is what it is now—including home of the annual Marrakech International Film Festival, which has been unfurling the red carpet this past week for the likes of Catherine Deneuve, Marion Cotillard, and Eva Mendes—thanks in part to Yves Saint Laurent. And to a great extent, the iconic designer’s legacy is what it is thanks to Marrakech. Want proof? First, go to Marrakech. Then see Yves Saint Laurent and Morocco, an exhibition that opened in late November and is up at the city’s Jardin Majorelle until March 18.
Saint Laurent was born in Oran, Algeria, in 1936, but the richness and exoticism of North Africa really hit him 30 years later, when he first came to Marrakech. Inspired by the fluid lines of caftans and djellabas, Saint Laurent embellished traditional Moroccan garments and tucked them into new silhouettes. He reoriented Middle Eastern ideas of leisure and formality for the liberated, exploratory female of the late sixties and seventies, the era of the “saharienne.” In short, he didn’t live in Marrakech the way most French second-homers do.
More than anything, though, Saint Laurent learned about color in Morocco. The 44 designs at the Majorelle (once the garden home of Saint Laurent and his partner, Pierre Bergé, now a museum and private park overseen by their foundation) come from the same exuberant palette as the region’s flora and precious stones. The show’s first exhibit is a red faille cape from 1989 with bougainvillea embroidery—one case where Saint Laurent literally put his backyard into his clothing.
Photo: © William Stevens / Fondation Pierre Bergé – Yves Saint Laurent