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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 20 March 2019

Villa Mabrouka: Yves Saint Laurent's Morocco home has a new owner

British designer Jasper Conran bought the Tangier property, and proceeds from the sale will go towards the upkeep of the YSL Museum in Marrakech

Yves Saint Laurent in Place Djemaa El Fna, Marrakech. Courtesy Reginald Gray
Yves Saint Laurent in Place Djemaa El Fna, Marrakech. Courtesy Reginald Gray

Soon after his show at London Fashion Week in February, Jasper Conran made his way to Tangier, Morocco. The veteran British designer, who counted Princess Diana among his clients, first visited the country in the 1980s, describing the city of Marrakech as "a place to come back to year after year — not least when it's grey in London". In 2016, Conran transformed a 19th-century riad into the boutique L'Hotel Marrakech, staying there himself for large parts of the year.

Last month in Tangier, Conran spent some time at antiques dealer Gordon Watson's "wonderful treasure house".

This wasn't the only other reason for Conran's visit, though; he also bought himself one of the port city's most famous houses: Villa Mabrouka, the former residence of Yves Saint Laurent, another designer who called the country home.

Villa Mabrouka

Perched atop a cliff edge staring out across the Strait of Gibraltar and five minutes out of downtown Tangier, Villa Mabrouka is also known as the House of Luck. The property's understated architecture and colonial feel are softened with a liberal wash of chintz furnishings, surrounded by a mix of rolling lawns and delicate pavilions.

Yves Saint Laurent bought the villa in 1998 with his long-time business partner Pierre Bergé, from Sheikha Fatima bint Fahad bin Salem Al Sabah of Kuwait. The simple decor was fashioned by interior designer Jacques Grange. "It was like decorating a house for people out of a play by Tennessee Williams," Grange has said. "We based it on the house of an eccentric Englishman who moved to Tangier in the 1950s."

Each room is dominated by a single colour, from pastel yellows to blues. Other features include imported lemon trees, a swimming pool carved into the rock and fountains designed by landscape gardener Madison Cox. Saint Laurent used the property as more of a private retreat than an entertaining venue, allowing him a slower pace of life than the frantic bustle of Paris.

Conran bought the villa from the Fondation Jardin Majorelle, and the proceeds from the sale will go towards the non-profit organisation and the Yves Saint Laurent Museum in Marrakech.

Fondation Jardin Majorelle

Saint Laurent and Bergé came across Jardin Majorelle in the 1960s; the garden was the brainchild of French artist Jacques Majorelle.

“We quickly became very familiar with this garden, and went there every day,” Bergé wrote in the book Yves Saint Laurent: A Moroccan Passion. “We were seduced by this oasis where colours used by Matisse were mixed with those of nature … And when we heard that the garden was to be sold and replaced by a hotel, we did everything we could to stop that project from happening. This is how we eventually became [its] owners.”

Jardin Majorelle
Jardin Majorelle

The garden is now part of the Fondation Jardin Majorelle, which was established in 2011.

In October 2017, a museum celebrating Saint Lauren's career, designs and life opened just up the road from Jardin Majorelle, alongside one in Paris. The Musée Yves Saint Laurent Marrakech spans more than 4,000 square metres, and features an exhibition space, a research library, bookshop and cafe. A reported 50 couture outfits are on show at any given time, while the library holds thousands of books on fashion, Yves Saint Laurent and Berber culture.

The museum was established to safeguard the couturier’s legacy and, by buying Villa Mabrouka, Conran will contribute to its upkeep.

Façade of Musée Yves Saint Laurent Marrakech.
Facade of Musée Yves Saint Laurent Marrakech.

Updated: March 5, 2019 10:01 AM

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