Fifty years ago the legendary fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent visited the Majorelle Garden and was instantly mesmerised by their beauty. Seeing as there's a brand new Yves Saint Laurent Museum opening in Marrakesh this October, I thought it would be fitting to reflect on my time here and delve further into the story of Jardin Majorelle.
The story behind Jardin Majorelle Marrakesh
Since learning about the launch of this new museum, I've done a little digging into the background of the gardens and how they came to be so closely linked with Yves Saint Laurent. As the fashion world started to take its toll on a young YSL, he planned a much-needed break away from it all. And where better place to go than the streets of vibrant Marrakesh where your senses come alive and you enter what feels like a different world?
He booked himself into a palace hotel in Marrakesh, La Mamounia, which is still around today. His partner and cofounder Pierre Berge joined him on the trip, and looking back afterwards he realised just how much of an impact it had on them.
"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."
Berge first laid eyes upon Jardin Majorelle in guide book. He learned that the gardens were put together by a French painter Jacques Majorelle. The two of them found the contrast between the lush green serene atmosphere of the gardens and the hot bustling streets of the Medina intriguing.
Marrakesh, a city filled with artistic inspiration
It was in Marrakesh that YSL had time and space to think, and elements of the city and gardens can certainly be found in his designs. Like the Majorelle blue colour for example. As soon as you step into the gardens this colour jumps out of you, it's the most vibrant and brightest cobalt blue. There's an entire building painted this colour, as well as plant pots dotted around the place.
He also incorporated elements of Moroccan fashion into some of his designs, and took comfort in being able to hide under local attire and peruse the markets in a country where he was less likely to be recognised.
Having been to Marrakesh in June, I find it hardly surprising that he found so much inspiration here. There are so many colours, textures, smells and sounds in this soul awakening city. It's a fab place for any creative artist seeking inspiration to go to. Something catches your eye around every corner, and if the madness of the Medina overwhelms you, you can take respite in luxury spa hotels that are so peaceful and relaxing.
The beautiful gardens were abandoned after Majorelle's death, and preparations began to clear the site, and build a new hotel in its place. Naturally, after spending time there and falling in love with the fountains, bright colours, cactus trees and vibrant flowers, YSL was not happy. So he decided to save the gardens from destruction by buying the site himself.
And why not, when you're an international fashion sensation? His passion may have been fashion but it seemed his heart was in Morocco. In 2008, sadly, he passed away - but his legacy lives on through these gardens as well as his fashion creations that still grace the catwalks of Paris, London and New York.
What is it like to visit Jardin Majorelle?
When you've been walking around the scorching streets of Marrakesh for a few days, these gardens are an absolute breath of fresh air. It's like entering a completely different land. As soon as you set foot inside, you're not in Morocco anymore, you could be anywhere. I think what I enjoyed most was the bright colours of all the decor, and the rawness of the gardens.
They are not like any gardens I've seen before. I expected them to be full of pretty flowers, but the focus here is more on the plants, trees and greenery rather than floral charms. The ponds with fish swishing their tails and lilies floating on the surface add to the serene vibe here.
In fact, I felt so relaxed that I channeled my inner zen goddess and tried some Taekwondo moves in a corner of the gardens. We also sat by the enormous bright plant pots and pretended to meditate for a moment. The gardens aren't that big, but they pack a lot of plants into a small area, and you can see they were designed by someone with an extremely creative mind.
The first dedicated fashion museum in Africa
Now you can visit a brand new museum, which is situated right next to the gardens on Rue Yves Saint Laurent. The interior of the building was inspired by a couture jacket lining, and the 400-square-metre exhibition space was designed by scenographer Christophe Martin.
Here you can feast your eyes upon 50 couture creations which portray key themes linked to YSL's work, including work influenced by the gardens and Morocco. The interior of the building is also made from traditional Moroccan materials such as zellige tiles and glazed bricks.
You can also see 30 artworks by the painter Jacques Majorelle in a room that's painted in the classic Majorelle blue. His partner, Berge who sadly passed away earlier this year helped lead the museum project. He said:
"It feels perfectly natural, fifty years later, to build a museum dedicated to his oeuvre, which was so inspired by this country."
Book a trip to Marrakesh to see the gardens and museum
Are you intrigued by YSL's time in Morocco? If you're a lover of fashion, art and culture then this is the perfect place to visit. I think the moments I spent in the gardens will stay with me for a very long time. It's a shame that the museum wasn't open when I went, but I hope to go back some time and check it out.