Morocco Taught Him Colour
Monday 1st January, 2018
Moroccan clothing, Yves Saint Laurent

In my next few blog posts, I'm going to show off some Moroccan clothes, because I love their vivid colours. I'm not the only one. Here are three quotes by Yves Saint-Laurent:

A visit to Marrakech was a great shock to me. This city taught me color.

In Morocco, I realized that the range of colors I use was that of the zelliges, zouacs, djellabas and caftans. The boldness seen since then in my work, I owe to this country, to its forceful harmonies, to its audacious combinations, to the fervor of its creativity. This culture became mine, but I wasn't satisfied with absorbing it; I took, transformed and adapted it.

At every street corner in Marrakech, one stumbles upon striking groups of men and women, appearing as if in relief: pink, blue, green and violet caftans blending with one another. One is surprised that these groups, which seem drawn or painted and evoke sketches by Delacroix, are in fact spontaneous arrangements of everyday life.

I first came across all three on the web. But disappointingly, none of the pages indicate when or where Yves Saint-Laurent said them. And I'd like to know. Why did he write or say them? Was he keeping notebooks, or were these casual utterances to friends? Or are the quotes "Chinese whispers", not really what YSL said at all?

Well, in a sense, they're not what he wrote or said, because presumably he'd have done so in French. So what are the original French versions? Googling possible translations, I found these:

J'ai découvert Marrakech très tard et ça a été un choc extraordinaire. Surtout pour la couleur. Cette ville m'a amené la couleur.

(La visite de Marrakech a été un grand choc pour moi, cette ville m'a appris la couleur.)

(Quand j'ai découvert Marrakech, ce fut un choc extraordinaire. Cette ville m'a appris la couleur.)

(Avant Marrakech, tout était noir. Cette ville m'a appris la couleur, et j'ai embrassé sa lumière, ses mélanges insolents et ses inventions ardentes.)

Au Maroc, je me suis rendu compte que la gamme de couleurs que j'utilise était celle des zelliges, des zouacs, des djellabas et des caftans. L'audace observée depuis lors dans mon travail, je le dois à ce pays, à ses harmonies énergiques, à ses combinaisons audacieuses, à la ferveur de sa créativité. Cette culture est devenue la mienne, mais je ne l'ai pas simplement absorbée; Je l'ai prise, transformée et adaptée.

À chaque coin de rue, à Marrakech, on croise des groupes impressionnants d'intensité, de relief, des hommes et des femmes où se mêlent des caftans roses, bleus, verts, violets. Et ces groupes qu'on dirait dessinés et peints, qui évoquent les croquis de Delacroix, c'est étonnant de se dire qu'ils ne sont en fait que l'improvisation de la vie.

The first, I found in "La dernière déclaration d'amour d'Yves Saint Laurent: Une exposition consacrée au grand couturier et à son attachement pour le Maroc se tient au musée de Majorelle jusqu'au 18 mars prochain.", Le Matin, 26 November 2010. YSL apparently said this in a documentary broadcast during an exhibition in the Majorelle museum.

That seems the most likely French original — not least, because Le Matin presumably checks its facts. But I did find three other possible versions, which I've put in small. One was from "'Perspectives of Life' par Christine Mignon" by "Eric", Hipstography, 26 February 2018. One was in Newsletter 3 of the Académie du Luxe. And one turned up in a page for the Four Seasons Resort, Marrakech. No indication from any of these about when or where their versions were said.

The second quote, about the zelliges, zouacs, djellabas and caftans, I found a French version of in "YSL: ouverture prochaine des deux musées en sa mémoire" by Anne-Sophie Castro, FashionUnited, Friday 9 June 2017, amongst other pages. Several of these — including "Yves Saint Laurent, citoyen de Marrakech" by Leïla Slimani for l'Express 5 June 2008, and "Ouverture du musée YSL" at Madame à Marrakech — write that YSL said it in 1983.

And the third, the pinks, blues, greens and violets, turns up in various places, including Yves Saint-Laurent by Laurence Benaïm, Yves Saint-Laurent, l'enfant terrible by Sandro Cassati, and "1966: La découverte du Maroc", a web page for the Musée Yves Saint Laurent in Paris. The first book attributes it to Le Monde 8 December 1983, if I understand correctly.

So all three quotes were probably spoken during interviews. Anyway, my next few posts will feature some Moroccan pinks, blues, violets and greens.