YSL MUSEUM – MARRAKECH

Yves Saint Laurent had many muses, but only one Marrakesh, the city where he discovered light and color, draping and caftans. There, in a series of homes — of which his final and most notable was the opulent Villa Oasis — Saint Laurent sketched some of his best designs (and hosted some of his wildest parties).

This October, some 50 years after the designer’s first visit to Morocco, a state-of-the-art fashion museum honoring his oeuvre will open just steps from the Jardin Marjorelle, the villa’s botanical escape-cum-tourist attraction. The new, 43,000-square-foot building, designed by the Paris-based firm Studio KO, will house thousands of articles of clothing and haute couture accessories, all carefully selected by Pierre Bergé, Saint Laurent’s partner in business and in life. Expect to see such iconic pieces as Le Smoking and the safari jacket, but not an exhaustive retrospective. (A sister museum, Musée Yves Saint Laurent Paris, opening in YSL’s former atelier on 5 Avenue Marceau a few weeks prior, will fill that role.)

“Here, we wanted to explore the spectacular and fantasy side of the work,” says Madison Cox, vp of the Fondation Pierre Bergé-Yves Saint Laurent and director of the Jardin Marjorelle. Confections like a scarlet faille couture cape embroidered with purple and hot-pink bougainvillea and an African-inspired beaded minidress from the 1967 Bambara haute-couture collection will hang in the permanent exhibition hall. Elsewhere, original scenography incorporating “floating voices, quotes, images and film snippets” by the French architect and set designer Christophe Martin will add a sense of “magic,” says the museum director Bjorn Dahlstrom.

No less expressive is the building itself, with both modern and traditional Moroccan influences (locally-sourced terrazzo, red brick latticework, bush hammered concrete) and a curved facade that mimics the folds of fabric. “We designed it like a sculpture; a game of volumes and heights,” Studio KO co-founder Olivier Marty says of the space, which will feature a bookshop, research library, auditorium and a cafe serving French-leaning fare with a terrace overlooking a reflection pool. Inside, light streams through stained-glass windows inspired by Saint Laurent’s love for Henri Matisse — blues and greens on one side of the entrance hall, reds and tangerines on the other. “He’s Marrakesh and Paris. He’s color and black, masculine and feminine, the line and arabesque,” says Dahlstrom. “Together, it’s essential YSL.”

Article courtesy of New York Times Style Magazine 

Symbolism of Berber Rugs

Morocco is the country where most Berber people live today.  Their origin is not really known and neither is the origin of the name Berber.  Recent research suggests that the Berber people once populated the whole of North Africa until Arab immigration drove them out of the Eastern regions.  We now describe all tribal and village carpets from Morocco as Berber even though the tribe may now speak Arabic.

Berber carpets generally have a coarse quality.  They are creations of rustic folk art by women living with their families in villages or as nomads.  They are woven for their own use, as bedding or blankets, or to decorate their homes for special occasions such as a wedding.  They are prized possessions but if cash is needed, a carpet is taken to a local souk to be sold.

Whilst weaving, the lower part of the carpet is rolled and disappears from sight, so the weaver must rely on her creativity to continue her work, using tradition but also her imagination.  The symbolism of the Berber carpet is the expression of a primitive fertility cult, originating from remote early cultures.  There is no other form of artisan art in which this still survives to this day.

A weaver will not generally be aware of the meanings of the symbols she uses, simply saying that her mother or grandmother used the same ones.  However, we do know that the main ‘female’ symbols in Berber carpets are the lozenge, the chevron and the X shape.  The eight pointed star, known as ‘Solomon’s Star’ also belongs to the feminine fertility symbols.  Maternity is the most important aspect of a Berber woman’s life.  ‘Male’ symbols are always long and thin, straight lines or sticks next to one another, sometimes forming a fish-bone pattern.  The ‘snake’ also plays an important part in male symbolism and is the only animal which appears in Berber carpets with a symbolic meaning.  Male motifs usually frame the female motifs and almost always form a border to the rectangular area of a carpet. 

Understanding the meaning of symbols gives a Berber carpet a new dimension other than just aesthetic admiration.

Extracts and images from ‘Berber Carpets of Morocco – the Symbols, Origin and Meaning’ by Bruno Barbatti.  A recommended read for anyone interested in exploring the history and style of Moroccan carpets.