The Legacy of Yves Saint Laurent, Marrakechi Muse

Come September 2017 new museums honoring the work of Yves Saint Laurent will unveil in Paris and Marrakech, giving fans of fashion’s beloved “couturier” an intimate look at his career, designs and life in the studio.

Although the legendary fashion designer and icon Yves Saint Laurent died in Paris in 2008, his ashes were scattered in the Majorelle Gardens, the iconic house and botanical garden that Saint Laurent bought in the 1980’s and found inspiration and refuge from worldwide fame. Today its tranquil pathways and charming museum of Amazigh art are popular with tourists a bit stunned from the pulse and bustle of Marrakech’s exciting streets.

Saint Laurent was credited with impacting (if not changing) how women dressed; he is noted as the designer to make luxury labels more accessible to a wider audience through innovative ready-to-wear collections.

Saint Laurent was born in 1936 to a close-knit French family in Oran, Algeria. He was a self-admitted shy and sickly child who was bullied mercilessly in school. He found solace by creating intricate paper dolls and designing dresses for his mother and sister. At 17, he won a fashion contest which led to a meeting with Christian Dior who, sensing a design kinship, immediately hired him. By 21, Saint Laurent was the lead designer of the most successful fashion house in France.

But, difficulties ensued. After his 1960 Dior collection failed, Saint Laurent was conscripted by the French Army – an excuse Dior used to dismiss him. Furthermore, he was deemed unfit for war, placed in a mental hospital and diagnosed with manic depression. After recovering, he sued the house of Dior for wrongful termination, took the money and – along with his lover and business partner – Pierre Bergé– started his own legendary company YSL.

He struggled with the pressure of fame and anxiety, suffering from alcohol and drug addiction. He would infamously get so intoxicated at his own shows sometimes that his models would have to carry him out of the venue. Often referred to as a ‘tortured genius’, friends say he found peace and seclusion in his Marrakech gardens and retreated there after high stress fashion shows. He also created here of course, bringing his visions for Paris to incredible life in his Marrakech sanctuary. He discovered profound inspiration in the vibrant hues of the Red City and the Kingdom of Morocco, a similar muse echoed by famous Chilean hyperrealist painter Claudio Bravo. In turn, he earned a reputation as arguably the designer with the best color sense of the 20th century.

From Vogue of course: “The first museum, in Paris, will be a renovation of the pre-existing Fondation Pierre Bergé–Yves Saint Laurent at 5 Avenue Marceau. The space, which was used as Saint Laurent’s atelier and office for more than 30 years, will be fully refurbished in its original style, allowing visitors the opportunity to experience Saint Laurent’s studio as it was while he was sketching and designing. The building will also be renovated to include more exhibition space for the more than 20,000 couture pieces and accessories it maintains from the designer’s career.”

On a second continent, in Saint Laurent’s adopted home of Marrakech, Morocco, another museum will open dedicated to the designer’s work. Aptly located on the Rue Yves Saint Laurent near the famous Jardin Majorelle—where he inhabited with his partner Pierre Bergé—the complex will contain a large exhibition space conceived by Christophe Martin, an auditorium for concerts, screenings and other events, a café-restaurant with a terrace and a research library of 5,000 books covering Yves Saint Laurent’s works, fashion, history and culture. The building itself, covering more than 4,000 square meters, will feature terracotta bricks made of Moroccan earth, concrete and an earthen-colored terrazzo with sweeping walls and Moroccan stone fragments.

Speaking to The Telegraph, Bergé explained the decision to erect a fashion-based museum: “When Yves Saint Laurent discovered Marrakech in 1966, he was so moved by the place that he decided to buy a house and regularly go back there. It feels perfectly natural, 50 years later, to build a museum dedicated to his oeuvre, which was so inspired by this country.”

The Red City played a pivotal role as his “safe place” where he was able to discover light even in his darkest moments. He was a person with extraordinary gifts who, like many of us, found solace in the inspirational madness of Marrakech while reveling in the magical tranquility. Cheers YSL, may you have found eternal peace.




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