The YSL Museum is a dream come true. Fashion, architecture, food, culture and Morocco. Seriously, I couldn’t ask for more. I’ve been thoroughly spoilt recently with the Dior and Balenciaga exhibitions, so the prospect of experiencing some of the very rarely seen couture of the YSL collection was an opportunity we couldn’t resist.
Yves Saint Laurent had forty years of intense creative output from 1962 until the much publicised closure of the couture house in 2002 ( prêt-à-porter and the accessories line continued). During that time he sketched, prototyped, archived and recorded his work, creating the largest collection of haute couture garments and accessories, alongside sketches, collection boards, photographs and objects. A true pioneer, he is the only designer of his generation to build such a collection; there is no equivalent in international haute couture.
The 4000 sq metre Marrakech museum opened at the same time as a Paris museum (next on my list!) and houses a permanent collection of fifty outfits displayed in the main exhibition hall. Designed by KO Studio (Chiltern St Firehouse, London and the Balmain boutique, NYC), the architecture has a clean, uncluttered feel, its sweeping curves and straight lines giving a nod to the cubist architecture of the designer’s villa at nearby Jardin Majorelle. I love the colour palette which cleverly blends the building to its environment, using locally made bricks, concrete and terazzo.
KO Studios liken the facade detail to fabric, with a “lace-like covering of bricks, creating patterns that recall the weft and warp of fabric”.
Whilst the exterior feels decorative, the interior has a luxe, clean feel that the museum compares to ‘the lining of a couture jacket’. Open spaces and smooth surfaces draw you through to light wells and the terrace, where the colour palette embraces mustard yellows and aqua green.
The permanent collection in the main exhibition hall presents some of the central themes in Yves Saint Laurent’s work: The Colour Black, Africa and Morocco,Imaginary Voyages, Masculine-Feminine, Gardens and Art.
Iconic pieces from the collection include the Mondrian dress, the “Le Smoking” suit, the Pea Coat, Jumpsuit and many of the designer’s most important creations inspired by Morocco – reminding us that he truly was a pioneer of fashion.
The models are spotlit against dark walls and surrounded by projections mixing words, photographs and films that contextualise the garments. Although small, its an intense and highly engaging exhibition with sensational colours and sumptuous fabrics that capture the essence and panache of YSL.
“I am no longer concerned with sensation and innovation, but with the perfection of my style.” Yves St Laurent 1982
In the auditorium we watched a film about the designer’s life and his influences, including fascinating footage from his final show at the Pompidou. I had forgotten that he’d been sacked from Dior following his breakdown during the war; Yves and his partner Pierre sued and used the settlement money to open their own fashion house, stealing the best staff from Dior.
We stopped for some delicious Moroccan mint tea and a slice of almond cake, before exploring the book shop and library.
The museum is located a 15 minute drive from the Medina and is situated next to Jardin Majorelle. We arrived just before it opened at 10am to avoid queuing (when we left at 11.30 the queue snaked around the corner). We purchased a joint ticket allowing access to both the museum and Jardin Majorelle, which meant we didn’t need to queue for the gardens. Allocate 1-2 hours for a visit.
Open daily 10:00 AM – 6:00 PM
Closed on Weds
Entry from approx £8