There is a love story involving one of the greatest designers of all time and a country, a city in particular, which with its golden glimpses, wild flora, unique architecture, warmth and friendliness of people knew how to carve a special place in the heart of Yves Saint Laurent.
We are talking about Morocco and Marrakech in particular, the “red city”.
This wonderful and inseparable relationship was born in 1966, 5 years after the birth of his Maison when, together with his partner in life and work Pierre Bergé, he chose the Moroccan city as a destination for a pleasure trip. There they discovered what would become a place of escape first of all and a favorite destination, the Majorelle Garden, “an oasis where the colors of Matisse are mixed with those of nature”.
But let’s take a step back.
The name of the Majorelle gardens derives from that of the painter Jacques Majorelle, son of the French cabinetmaker and designer Louis Majorelle, who in 1919 chose as his home Marrakech and precisely the Medina (the old city). Between 1922 and 1923 he bought a millstone in the north-west of the Medina and, in 1931, commissioned the architect Paul Sinoir to build a Moorish-style villa inside the palm grove.
The house was structured in this way: on the ground floor, there was his large studio while the actual house was on the second floor.
The villa was further embellished by the Majorelle blue walls, a sort of cobalt blue invented by the French painter himself and opened to the public in 1947.
Majorelle was a lover of botany and, inspired by traditional Moroccan gardens, created his own botanical garden. What came out was an incredible and lush tropical garden that surrounded the house, a sort of cathedral made of impressionist shapes and colors, built on a long central basin with several different environments.
A living and moving work of art, with exotic and rare plants, embellished and adorned with fountains, ponds, ceramic vases, paths, and much more.
Going back to 1966 and Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Bergé’s trip to Marrakech, the two discovered the gardens and were delighted.
At that time Majorelle Garden was in a state of semi-abandonment due to high running costs and Majorelle was forced to sell. The garden remained practically unattended. The greatest danger was that of demolition but Saint Laurent could not allow it.
He bought the entire complex in 1980, including the wonderful house of the French artist who was renamed Villa Oasis, restoring it with maniacal attention and choosing to live there.
The garden was owned by Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Bergé until 2008 when, after the death of the French designer, his ashes were scattered in the rose garden inside the garden.
Since 2010 the property is owned by the Foundation Pierre Bergé – Yves Saint Laurent and since 2011 the management is entrusted to the Fondation Jardin Majorelle, a non-profit organization in Marrakech. The development of the garden is still in progress and they are one of the main tourist attractions of Marrakech and attract more than 700,000 visitors every year.
Pierre Bergé was the director of the foundation dedicated to the garden until his death in September 2017.
The villa is home to the Musée Pierre Bergé des Arts Berbères while the former atelier of Majorelle has become the Museum of Islamic Art in Marrakech which houses a collection of North African fabrics from the personal collection of Saint-Laurent, as well as ceramics and jewelry.
In October 2017, Bergé inaugurated the Musée Yves Saint Laurent de Marrakech located a short distance from the Majorelle gardens, in the street named after the French designer.
Built-in terracotta, cement and compacted earth and made by the French architectural firm Studio KO, which has tried to incorporate the lines of the YSL logo into the structure while still embracing the traditional aesthetic that surrounds it.
The museum boasts permanent and temporary exhibition spaces, some rooms are temperature-controlled to protect the extensive archive collection that includes thousands of original Saint Laurent sketches. There is also an auditorium and a research library that houses a series of books ranging from Arabic and Berber literature and culture to the creations of the French designer.
We start by talking about a love story that began in 1966 at a stroke and continues today in the memory of Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Bergé, two iconic figures from the world of fashion and culture of all time.