Marrakech is an imperial city that attracts kings over the centuries. Even the king of fashion. Our guide Youssef, said, “From Matisse to Yves Saint-Laurent, French artists promoted Moroccan design cultures after our independence in 1956.”
The Majorelle Gardens are a botanical garden in Marrakech that was designed by the French artist Jacques Majorelle in 1924, during the colonial period when Morocco was a protectorate of France. The special shade of electric cobalt blue which he used extensively in the garden and its buildings is named after him, bleu Majorelle.
The garden has been open to the public since 1947 though it fell into ruin. Since 1980 the garden has been owned by Yves Saint-Laurent and Pierre Bergé.
They discovered their love of all things Moroccan in 1966. The visit, Bergé said, began with a week of rain and ended with the purchase of the house and ultimately the restoration of the Majorelle Gardens, named for the French painter and his chosen shade of blue.
Saint-Laurent himself described how he embraced the inspiration of the light and colors of Marrakech, its “insolent mixes” and “ardent inventions.” “But I wasn’t content with importing this culture,” he said. “I annexed, transformed and adapted it.”
Bergé said Saint-Laurent took the essence of the Moroccan Djellaba, a type of gown, and the color and light of Marrakech, and incorporated it in his work.
The BBC’s James Copnall in Morocco says the Majorelle Gardens are “a striking and stylish area of respite from the heat of Marrakech and a fitting final resting place for Saint-Laurent.” The ashes of the fashion designer were scattered in the garden after he died of a brain tumor in 2008, aged 71.
At the memorial ceremony, Bergé, paid a tribute to his long-term partner: “You could have slid into the fashions of the times,” he said, “but instead you remained faithful to your own style, and you were quite right, for that style is now everywhere, perhaps not in fashion, but in the streets of the whole world.”
Most especially in their compound at the Majorelle Gardens where the luminous blue cannot be duplicated since Yves took the recipe with him to the celestial blue heavens when he passed.
The garden hosts more than 15 bird species, which can be found only in this region of North Africa.
Youssef looks up at the palms and says, “Birds are the symphony of the gods.”
(photos by Lisa Alpine)