Yves Saint Laurent’s Berber Cloak at Museo del Traje Madrid

One of the collection highlights of Madrid’s Museo del Traje is a dark brown woolen cloak. At first glance, its semi circular cut and peaked hood with fringed tassel could be of a study selection of ethnographic dress. However, upon closer inspection, it turns out that this garment was created in the shadow of the Eiffel tower, by none other than Yves Saint Laurent. This garment is definitely a result of Yves Saint Laurent’s fascination with Morocco.

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Yves Saint Laurent Berber Cloak. Collection Museo del Traje. CER.ES: Red Digital de Colecciones de museos de España. All rights reserved.

Arriving in the North African country in the late 1960s, Yves Saint Laurent and partner Pierre Bergé enjoyed its rich culture, oriental mystique and comparatively liberal mindsets. Morocco during the 60s and 70s welcomed a cast of glamorous explorers. Ghettys, Agnellis and Rothschilds refurbished traditional mansions into the glittering meeting point of a jet setting society. Together with his childhood in Algeria, Yves Saint Laurent’s stay in Morocco and experience with Maghreb culture would heavily influence his designs.

After a short stay at famous Marrakech hotel La Mamounia, Saint Laurent and Bergé purchased their first own Moroccan property in 1967. Located in the historic medina of Marrakech, ‘dar el Hanch’ – the House of the Serpent- offered ample space for the pair’s growing collection of traditional Berber art.

Seven years later, the pair chose interior designer Bill Willis to turn ‘dar es Saada’, a house bordering the tranquil garden of painter Jacques Majorelle, into their new home. His combination of influences is similar to Yves Saint Laurent’s interpretation of far flung cultures for the Parisian catwalks.

After Bergé’ and Saint Laurent moved into Majorelle’s former studio, interior designer Jacqueline Froissac  updated the house to accommodate the designer’s guests. The rooms were decorated in an Orientalist style with dark woodcarvings, stencils and tapestries in ornate gold tones opposed to 1930s furniture. Other rooms use colours found in Matisse’s modern masterpieces.

Throughout their changes of homes, Bergé and Saint Laurent invested in traditional Berber art and this together with his North-African surroundings has strongly influenced Yves Saint Laurent’s signature, exemplified by this cape in the Museo del Traje collection. The fringes adorning this Yves Saint Laurent cape, preserved at Museo del Traje, are a typical emblem of Morocco.

Cloaks and capes can be traced throughout Yves Saint Laurent’s collections, acting as a canvas to different inspirations. The Moroccan cloak, of which there exist other examples offers a glimpse inside the Maghreb culture that surrounded Yves Saint Laurent throughout his life, from his childhood in Algeria to his adult life in Marrakech and Paris.

Contribution: Felix Bischof

Further reading:
Hazel Lubbock, ‘Yves Saint Laurent’s Moroccoan Legacy’ Condé Nast Traveller
‘Moroccan Interiors…Bill Willis Style’ on Eye for Design
La Zahia: Villa Oasis’ on The Art of the Room

Pierre Berge, ‘Yves Saint Laurent: A Moroccan Passion’ , Publisher: Abrams (2014)
Laurence Benaim, ‘Yves Saint Laurent’, Publisher: Librarie Generale Francaise (2010)
Hamish Bowles, ‘Yves Saint Laurent: Style’, Publisher: Harry N Abrams (2008)

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