Yves Saint Laurent – Pierre Bergé, A Moroccan Passion
Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Bergé visited Morocco for the first time in 1966. They enjoyed many happy moments in Marrakech and usually traveled there a few times each year. Saint Laurent drew inspiration from Morocco for his collections. He and Bergé remained actively involved in making a positive contribution to the country. The renowned Jardin Majorelle and the musée YVES SAINT LAURENT marrakech both attest to their “Morrocan passion”.
“One morning we awake and the sun had appeared. A Moroccan sun that probes every recess and corner. The birds were singing, the snow capped Atlas Mountains blocked the horizon, and the perfume of jasmine rose to our room. We would never forget that morning, since in a certain way, it decided our destiny.”
Yves Saint Laurent was born in Oran, Algeria, in 1936. When he rediscovered North Africa thirty years later, he rediscovered the region’s particular light and the color it revealed. Morocco became an endless source of inspiration for Saint Laurent. He would go their twice a year—in December and June—to design his collections, which were subsequently dominated by color.
“Once I grew sensitive to light and colors, I especially noticed the light on colors … , on every street corner in Marrakech, you encounter astonishingly vivid groups of men and women, which stand out in a blend of pink, blue, green, and purple caftans.”
During the swinging sixties, Marrakech went from being a sleepy town to one of the most festive places in the world. It did not have many bars, so people met up in the most beautiful homes—specifically at the residence of Paul and Talitha Getty, one of the first couples to move there. They invited many friends and eventually met Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Bergé, who had established their own circle composed of the Gettys, Fernando Sanchez, Loulou de La Falaise, Andy Warhol, and Mick Jagger.
In 1974, Pierre Bergé and Yves Saint Laurent sold Dar el-Hanch to their friend Fernando Sanchez and acquired a house named Dar Es Saada, the “House of Happiness,” which was located in the Gueliz district near the Jardin Majorelle.
They asked their architect friend Bill Willis to decorate it. Willis had also arrived in Marrakech in the 1960s, becoming the preferred decorator of the well-to-do, bohemian population with which he associated.
“Bill Willis. He created the modern Moroccan design movement. All the decorators here were inspired by his work, and his influence can be seen in homes, palaces and hotels.”
In 1980, Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Bergé learned that the Jardin Majorelle, which they often visited, was threatened by a real-estate development project. In order to rescue it from demolition, they decided to acquire it along with the adjoining villa.
The garden and villa had been dreamed up by Jacques Majorelle, son of the French cabinetmaker and decorator Louis Majorelle. Having become the owner of land in Marrakech, Jacques Majorelle had an Art Deco-style studio designed by the architect Paul Sinoir built on it in 1931. Over forty years, he also cultivated a garden there made up of plants from five continents.
Saint Laurent and Bergé put Bill Willis in charge of renovating the villa, which they called the “Villa Oasis.” They also asked him to decorate the atelier, in which they created a museum of Islamic art.
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