For Yves Saint Laurent, Marrakech was transcendental. First visiting with his partner Pierre Bergé in 1966, Saint Laurent felt an immediate affinity that would linger deeply in his designs – especially in his use of vibrant hues and fabrics.
Speaking later about La Mamounia, the hotel they stayed in on that inaugural trip, Bergé recalled “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.” It left a lasting impression – in Marrakech, you can visit the Musée Yves Saint Laurent, as well as the designer’s famous blue garden Jardin Majorelle.
Elsewhere, this year has seen more international interest in Saint Laurent’s Moroccan chapter, first kicking off in February with a whopping six-venue exhibition in Paris covering the couturier’s life and work. And currently showing in Évora, Portugal, one can also visit LOVE – Morocco Opened My Eyes to Colour at the Palácio Duques de Cadaval, another multi-part exhibition building dialogues between Saint Laurent’s designs and various contemporary Moroccan artists including Meriem Bennani and Yto Barrada, with critic and curator Mouna Mekouar involved in both projects.
It’s no wonder, then, that current creative director Anthony Vaccarello decided it was time for the house to revisit. For the house’s SS23 menswear show, Vaccarello brought attendees out to the Agafay desert, about an hour from Marrakech.
Models stalked around a stunning set designed by artist Es Devlin that brought out the landscape’s lunar qualities: a disc of water and a light show elevating this stark setting into something unearthly.
The collection, too, was a joyful nod to the house’s founder, with updated versions of Le Smoking, louche blouses, super-tactile materials and sexy, slightly undone silhouettes that blurred the lines between masculine and feminine.
Vaccarello said that much of the inspiration came from his own youth, and the kinds of clothes he wanted to wear when he was studying at La Cambre in Brussels. It’s certainly a more stylish vision of studenthood than most of us might imagine: sharp shouldered, softly enveloped, best pointy toed boot set forward.
What’s more, it was the sort of show many big brands are attempting to put on right now – events intended to ripple on a vast scale, proving that they still have the punch and vision to pull off a real spectacle. Safe to say, this one did.