Arguably the greatest fashion designer of the 20th century, Yves Saint Laurent, is synonymous with Marrakech and North Africa. I’d wanted to visit Marrakech for a while, now, and when the new YSL Museum opened in October, it was definitely the thing that cemented my reason for going.
Left - Take your ChicGeek selfies before you go in because the exit is on the side
Located on the same street as the famous Jardin Marjorelle – it was acquired by Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Bergé in 1980 to stop it being developed into a hotel. The new owners decided to live in the Villa Bou Saf Saf, which they renamed Villa Oasis, and undertook the restoration of the garden in order to “make the Jardin Majorelle become the most beautiful garden – by respecting the vision of Jacques Majorelle,” - the new museum is testament to Saint Laurent’s talent, his 40 years career and his connection with the city. Built by the Fondation Pierre Bergé, Saint Laurent’s life and business partner, the two museums bearing his name - there’s another new one in Paris BTW - are preserving his archive and legacy.
The 4,000 m² building includes a 400m² permanent exhibition space devoted to the work of Yves Saint Laurent and designed by Christophe Martin. The museum also includes a hall for temporary exhibitions, a research library with over 5,000 volumes, a 140-seat auditorium, bookshop and terrace café.
Right - The iconic Mondrian dress welcomes you into the main exhibition space
The new building has something of the Frank Lloyd Wrights about it. The low-rise, concrete and brick finish, designed by French architectural, Studio KO, has a 20th century modern feel and is beautiful in its simplicity.
As you enter the circular entrance you’re greeted by the timeless and elegant YSL logo - take all your pictures and selfies now, as you won’t be coming back this way - once inside there is a green tiled fountain in a glazed courtyard.
There is a small, temporary exhibition space, painted Marjorelle blue, currently showing the paintings and illustrations of Jacques Majorelle, the creator of the garden. This space will change up to three times a year with different exhibitions and it was interesting to see what a talent Majorelle was. Think Art Deco Arabia.
In the main exhibition space, everything is dark and meticulously lit. The first thing you see is Yves Saint Laurent’s iconic Mondrian dress, an item of clothing so simple, yet original, and part of the explosion of pop we saw in the mid-sixties. This is, rightly, one of the greatest items of women’s fashion from the 20th century.
Left - There was a strict no pictures policy, I never quite understand why, so here's one of the museum's images of the beautifully lit main exhibition space
There’s a small sketch of the classic logo, designed by Adolphe Mouron Cassandre in 1961, and, then, the room opens out into a timeline charting the life and career of the designer.
At the end of the room is a collection of classic, black ‘Le Smoking’ suits. Saint Laurent revolutionised womenswear by making it acceptable for women to wear black tailored dinner suits.
As you turn, a double height portrait of Yves surveys a collection of looks from his career. There is no chronology here, and even the worst type of 80s gypsy or Russian dresses look great due to the lighting. Towards the end there is a large display cabinet with lots of accessorises and fashion jewellery. The pieces with lots of embroidery and Braque-like birds really sparkle in the black space with the shiny floor adding to the sumptuous feel of the exhibition.
As you leave, you enter into the gift shop with its red lacquered walls. There’s a café across from the auditorium showing catwalk shows from Yves Saint Laurent’s career. The exit is here, with Prickly Pears lining the walk back to the street, letting the small museum flow with visitors.
There isn’t any menswear in the museum, but, if you like fashion, there’s plenty to enjoy. Small touches reinforce the power of this brand. I’m not sure if Kering, the parent company of YSL, had any input here, but they must be very pleased with the result. The brand definitely goes up in your estimation and puts itself in the enviable position of having lots of recognisable brand signatures and designs.
Even the subtle touch of two separate fuchsia pink and tangerine coloured glass windows reflects the small coloured squares on YSL’s ready-to-wear ‘Rive Gauche’ label and no doubt a colour combination taken and inspired by Marrakech.
Left - Born in Algeria, Yves Saint Laurent is synonymous with North Africa
A pioneer, Yves Saint Laurent was the only fashion designer of his generation to systematically archive his work, beginning with the founding of the couture house.
Beginning in 1964, Yves Saint Laurent decided to set aside for safekeeping certain pieces from every collection. The Fondation Pierre Bergé’s holdings include every entire haute couture collection made by Yves Saint Laurent between 1962 and 2002. The Fondation also safeguards 65 Dior garments designed between 1955 and 1960 while Yves Saint Laurent was Christian Dior’s assistant, before becoming the couture house’s creative director.
Right - TheChicGeek outside the recently opened museum
Unfortunately, Pierre Bergé died a few weeks before the museum officially opened. But, with his ashes now in the Jardin Marjorelle, along with Yves, they are both now part of an exciting and stylish cultural quarter in Marrakech which charts the career and development of one of the biggest 20th century brands in fashion. The museum is a definite must if you're visiting Marrakech and the Jardin Marjorelle.
Below - Designed by French architectural firm Studio KO, the museum has a feeling of a Frank Lloyd Wright meets Marrakech aesthetic
TheChicGeek was a guest at Le Palais Paysan around 25 minutes from central Marrakech by car with stunning views of the Atlas Mountains and surrounding countryside. See more here