'Marrakech taught me colour,', who bought his iconic cobalt blue villa in the Moroccan city in 1966. 'Before Marrakech, everything was black.'
This month, the Musée Yves Saint Laurent opens in Marrakech, showcasing a stunning collection of couture, accessories, sketches and photographs from the designer's 40-year career.
Steps away from his private villa, roughly 1000 items from Saint Laurent's studio are on view in the $17 million (about £13 million) terra cotta museum, including the iconic Mondrian collection from 1965 and cocktail dresses printed with the abstract paintings of Mondrian.
This museum is not alone. A newopened the doors to the designer's French atelier last week. 'The two museums show Saint Laurent's duality; his dark and colourful pieces, that he is both classical and baroque, the minimal line but also the Arabesque,' explains Dahlström. 'He is both Marrakech and Paris.'
Dahlström thinks Saint Laurent was an artist. 'Pierre Bergé used to say "Style is not an art, but you need an artist to make fashion,"' he said. 'It's quite relevant when talking about Yves Saint Laurent.'
Indeed, there are dresses inspired by Pablo Picasso and a hand-embroidered jacket inspired by a Vincent Van Gogh painting, the most expensive jacket in fashion for its time in 1988 (it sold for 500,000 French Francs, about £675,000 today). 'Everything is linked to art,' notes Dahlström.
The museum captures his adventurous career, from his first LIFE magazine cover to his last runway show in 2008. It begins in 1957, when he succeeded Christian Dior at the Maison Dior in Paris, to 1961, when he founded his own fashion house at the age of 25. 'Ambition, ambition, ambition — from the beginning,' , while , at this time, as 'full of life, full of sparkle.'
Portraits of the artist grace the gallery's dramatically-lit black walls, one showing the designer in a melancholic slouch by Andy Warhol in 1974, another being a nude by Jeanloup Sieff to advertise his first fragrance, Opium, in 1977.
What makes this museum special is the rainbow of fabric on display, after Saint Laurent discovered Marrakech. 'When you look at his collection before 1966, you see a lot of black, but after, you see a blooming of colour,' said Dahlström.
There are pre-Marrakech pieces like his iconic smoking suit, the tuxedo two-piece which revolutionised androgynous sex appeal for women. It was so controversial, hotels and restaurants , but it became a classic in 1975 when it was photographed by Helmut Newton for French Vogue.
Marrakech-inspired pieces are shown in the permanent exhibition, which shows 50 of Saint Laurent's most iconic looks on mannequins, from his safari jackets to his Russian collection from 1976 to his Romanian blouse from 1981, which pays homage to a famous painting by Henri Matisse.
'He had such a gift for combining inspiration from traditional costumes he never saw with his own eyes,' says Dahlström. 'He said he was an armchair traveller.'
Saint Laurent's famous quotes are projected on the walls behind the mannequins. 'Good clothing is a passport to happiness,' one says. Old video footage from runway shows plays to a soundtrack of the Rolling Stones, opera classics and press interview audio clips where Saint Laurent muses on fashion. 'Over the years I have learned that what is important in a dress is the woman who is wearing it,' he says in one clip.
The museum has a room devoted to photography, which shows a series of Saint Laurent's muse, French actress Catherine Deneuve, shot by German fashion photographer Andre Rau in 1992. 'She is photographed in Saint Laurent's clothing and in Marrakech, so it made sense to open the museum with this series,' explains Dahlström. 'It's very special.'
But it's not all about Yves. There is a gallery for showcasing young artists and designers; Marrakech designer Noureddine Amir opens a solo show on February 23, and currently, you can find 40 landscape paintings of Morocco by Jacques Majorelle, the artist who owned the blue villa and garden before Saint Laurent bought in the 1960s.
For those who want a deeper look into Saint Laurent's Marrakech life, the is hosting rare tours of his private home, , by appointment only through the concierge. A visit to the villa is $1,700 for a tour of eight people, which goes towards the Majorelle Foundation.
But the museum is a kind of home, too, at least for Saint Laurent's vision as a fashion designer. 'The goal is to show what Saint Laurent brought to fashion; he would come here two weeks a year to design his collections,' says Dahlström. 'Paris was his place of creation but Marrakech was his place of inspiration.'