Flaviano walked quickly past sketches. “Yves Saint Laurent always and only started from a sketch, even had the model in mind as he drew,” he called over his shoulder, passing by a trouser suit from the 1960s. At that time, the notion that women could wear trousers was groundbreaking, he noted. Saint Laurent gave them permission. “He accompanied women in their emancipation.” And never stopped, Flaviano observed, saying that Saint Laurent prided himself on the refinement of ideas. “Mr Bergé used to say: ‘Yves worked for 40 years, but he could have stopped ten years after he started. He had already said everything.’ ” There are many hats on display (“He designed a hat for almost every look”), but there are no handbags. “Yves Saint Laurent was somebody, not just a brand for bags.” We stopped in front of a collection of disparate looks: a toreador look from 1979, an African-inspired dress with a raffia hem. “We call this his ‘imaginary travels’ – his inspirations from Spain, Russia, Africa, China,” Flaviano said. “It was never a copy of historic costumes, but an idea he’d seen, and he created something else.” We pause in front of a vibrant orange-and-pink embroidered cape, two colours that should not be so wonderfully juxtaposed. “And here you have the Bougainvillea cape. Yves Saint Laurent discovered Morocco in 1966 with Pierre Bergé. This is when he discovered colours.” Not colour. Colours. “It rained for two days when Yves and Pierre came to Marrakech for the first time,” Quito Fierro told me three days later in Morocco. Fierro (whose mother knew the couple, and whom Bergé referred to as his “adopted son from Morocco”) walked through the Jardin Majorelle, an actual oasis next to the new Musée Yves Saint Laurent Marrakech. Wind blows down off the mountains, across the medina, and through the palm trees and bougainvillea. Fierro now works for the museum, and explains how the couple discovered their second home. “They rarely left their hotel room at the Mamounia the first few days they were here. Then they woke up, and it’s a clear day. The sun was out. They could see the Atlas Mountains and they bought a house.” For Saint Laurent, as Fierro and others told me, Paris was process, an execution of work. But Marrakech was inspiration, creation and, in many ways, the setting of a personal revolution. The world in the late 1960s was in upheaval, and Saint Laurent was not immune to that. The couple began coming to Marrakech regularly, buying one house after another, befriending the era’s other bold-faced hippies like Mick Jagger and Talitha Getty, eventually arriving on these grounds in 1980 and buying the estate of the great painter Jacques Majorelle. For about 20 years, Saint Laurent did all of his sketching here, when he would come to recuperate after his haute couture shows and start creating the next one, drawing for two straight weeks and then returning to Paris. Saint Laurent’s ashes were brought here after his death, as were Bergé’s. Fierro stopped at Saint Laurent and Bergé’s memorial, where a Roman column hovered. Tourists and fashion fans took selfies, most of them wearing a version of something that was radical when Saint Laurent created it, from sheer bow blouses to full-on Russian peasant looks. “We have to tell the whole story,” Fierro said. “There’s light and dark. And the story is not just in Paris.” A few steps from the garden down Rue Yves Saint Laurent is the new institution designed to tell the rest of the story. The modern, sloping, low-slung structure, by architects Karl Fournier and Olivier Marty from Studio KO, blends seamlessly into the neighbourhood, matching the warm clay colour of the city. The idea for the museum, which also opened in October, arose after an exhibition in the garden seven years ago showing the influence of the city on Saint Laurent’s work. “We had 40,000 visitors in under three months,” Madison Cox told me as I walked into the dark foyer of the space. Cox is the president of the Fondation Pierre Bergé-Yves Saint Laurent, the umbrella organisation that runs the institutions in Paris and Marrakech. A well-known American landscape gardener, he married Bergé last year. “A large majority were Moroccans,” Cox said. “They started to realise the importance of their culture in Saint Laurent’s work. Many didn’t even know his work, to be honest with you. I mean, they knew the name. There was a certain sense of national pride. I won’t be presumptuous, but maybe they were saying, ‘He’s one of us.’ ” The inaugural show in the 4,000sq m museum – which also includes a research library and a theatre – picks up where the Paris museum leaves off. The presentation is as slick as Paris’s is quaint, with floating runway models drifting across black walls like holograms, Saint Laurent’s voice floating above Saint Laurent’s couture, caftans and ballgowns in vibrant colours, shades that came straight from the streets, rooftops and gardens he first fell in love with in 1966. The juxtapositions of Saint Laurent’s work are as jarring as his two lives seemed to be. It can be hard to reconcile. The earnest, soulful, Moroccan-inspired collection of caftans opposite a dress inspired by Mondrian hanging and spotlighted on a wall like a crucifix, across from framed pages of the ad campaign in which he posed nude. They tell a complex and more complete story. “The duality comes through,” said Cox of the two sides of the couturier. Cox first met Saint Laurent and Bergé in the 1970s. “Saint Laurent was born in Algeria and there was this concept of what Paris was.” Cox described Paris as Saint Laurent’s idealised Oz. “He had a vision of an elegant woman, all buttoned up. His work in Marrakech represented the fantasy.” Cox sees the worldwide interest in the opening of these institutions as both a validation of Saint Laurent’s contributions and a longing for a more free time. “Fashion has become big business,” he said, acknowledging that fashion exhibitions have as well. “The stakes in fashion are so high today. So I think with the response to these museums, there is a nostalgia for a period that was seen as more creative.” I followed Cox out to the courtyard, into the midday sun. He squinted through his eyeglasses, staring at the stone signage marking the entrance to the facility. The Cassandre logo hung there, this time the y, s and l rendered in metre-tall black iron. “Perhaps Saint Laurent’s work is resonating right now because we’re living in such a disposable world,” he said. “Everything is used and then thrown out and replaced, and used and thrown out again. But in the work that Saint Laurent and Bergé left behind, in the creation, there is a wonderful sense of permanence.” PHOTO FACING PAGE: JARDIN MAJORELLE/PHOTO NICOLAS MATHÉUS 70 CENTURION-MAGAZINE.COM
“Mr Bergé used to say: ‘Yves worked for 40 years, but he could have stopped ten years after he started. He had already said everything‘ ” Jewellery and accessories, along with portraits of Saint Laurent, in the Musée Yves Saint Laurent Marrakech
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