JEAN PAUL GAULTIER, SERGE

ELLE (Canada) - - Lifestyle -

Lutens, the Her­mès fam­ily, the Bran­sons, the Bul­garis—ev­ery stylish globe­trot­ter seems to have a place in Morocco th­ese days. Where Europe meets Africa at the Strait of Gi­bral­tar, in a sub­lime fu­sion of the el­e­gant and the exot­ic that is by turns an­te­dilu­vian and achingly chic, Mar­rakech is a mag­net for fash­ion buffs. It’s hard to name a la­bel that hasn’t squeezed Africa’s most stylish city for cre­ative juice. A few re­cent col­lec­tions by Tory Burch, Mara Hoff­man and Kate Spade come to mind, while Matthew Wil­liamson, fresh off Poppy Delev­ingne’s Mar­rakech wed­ding, drew his pre-fall 2015 col­lec­tion from its archi­tec­ture, mo­saics and dec­o­ra­tive tech­niques. And for spring/sum­mer 2018, An­thony Vac­carello opened his show with a boho pa­rade in­spired by the city loved by Yves Saint Lau­rent.

Mar­rakech is di­vided into three main dis­tricts—the 12th-cen­tury walled-in me­d­ina; Ville Nou­velle, which edges it; and the tony Palmeraie, on the town’s desert out­skirts—but its heart is the bustling main square, Je­maa el-Fnaa. At night, it trans­forms into a not-to-be­missed food court, and the slen­der laneways that snake off of it twist through a daz­zling maze­like bazaar. Each time I re­turn here, I’m armed with a men­tal list of ev­ery­thing I didn’t buy on my last foray. Hav­ing al­ready amassed a col­lec­tion of lanterns, bed­spreads, car­pets, hand­bags, jew­ellery, slip­pers and em­broi­dered vel­vet coats, this time I was on the hunt for cur­tain tie-backs (ham­mered sil­ver discs so lushly tas­selled they’re like drop ear­rings for your drapes), hand­ira (glam wo­ven blan­kets banded with se­quins and plush fringe) and, oh yes, a six-me­tre python skin (that would look marvel­lous pressed un­der glass on my din­ing-room wall). Never been? Never mind: With th­ese picks, your Mar­rakech to-do list will match any style maker’s.

HAGGLE Suf­fice it to say that the city is not a healthy place for im­pulse shop­pers with no self­con­trol. While GPS has made nav­i­gat­ing the souk (mar­ket) eas­ier, hiring a guide—at $50 per half day—is worth it. Guides can save you time and money by quickly get­ting you where you want to go and, if you like, help­ing with bar­gain­ing (so you pay about 50 per­cent of the ini­tially of­fered price). Mustapha Chouquir is the in­sider favourite. For se­ri­ous spend­ing, book Cob­ble­stone, owned by Michael Di­a­mond, a Morocco con­nois­seur who co­or­di­nates flaw­less itin­er­ar­ies tai­lored to any in­ter­est, from cul­ture and de­sign to shop­ping, cui­sine and camel trekking. SHOP In ad­di­tion to tra­di­tional lo­cal ven­dors, there are lots of fash­ion­able ex­pats drawn by Mar­rakech’s de­sign flair. Is­abelle Topolina, a cou­ture pat­tern maker from Nor­mandy, now fills a trio of eponym­ous shops with her vi­brant tex­tiles and well-cut dresses and counts Plum Sykes among her fans. Sarah Buchan, from Lon­don, launched Kaf­tan Queen seven years ago, while Bordeaux na­tive Laeti­tia Trouil­let’s gim­let eye led Sarah Jes­sica Parker and Gwyneth Pal­trow to hire her as a per­sonal shop­per be­fore she opened her hand­bag and ac­ces­sories bou­tique, Lalla. Dis­patched to Morocco to over­see pro­duc­tion for brands like Kenzo and Lacroix, Lu­dovic Petit de­buted his own show­room, Lup 31, in 2015 to re­tail his sig­na­ture take on North African de­sign. On the home­decor front, you’ll find Alessan­dra Lip­pini, for­mer style ed­i­tor for Vogue Italia, be­hind the heavy wooden doors of her by-ap­point­ment-only fur­ni­ture em­po­rium, Min­is­tero del Gusto. Valérie Barkowski, a Bel­gian for­mer cre­ative di­rec­tor, now pro­duces h

sump­tu­ous home ac­ces­sories for her V.Barkowski store. Filled to its lantern-strung rafters with fur­ni­ture, fab­ric, pouffes, urns, an­tique doors and car­pets, Tré­sor des No­mades is the trea­sure trove Naomi Camp­bell mines for bo­hemian decor. Mean­while, Sidi Ghanem, an in­dus­trial zone 20 min­utes from town, has been re­vamped into a thriv­ing de­sign dis­trict filled with bistros, gal­leries, work­shops and re­tail spa­ces. STAY While you may go broke trawl­ing the city’s souk and bou­tiques, you can check into a stylish riad (a his­toric villa wrapped around a court­yard) with­out spend­ing a for­tune. Stay­ing in the me­d­ina of­fers the rich­est cul­tural ex­pe­ri­ence, and, given the del­uge of sophisto ex­pats re­vamp­ing his­toric prop­er­ties into small ho­tels, this is where the gems are found, as sheer vol­ume keeps prices down. With its six rooms, in­door pool and easy-to-find lo­ca­tion (es­sen­tial), I’ve loved Riad Dixneuf la Ksour since it opened in 2009. It’s prac­ti­cally next door to El Fenn, Vanessa Bran­son’s 28-room bou­tique arts ho­tel, which is a cool spot for din­ner and drinks—and my rec­om­men­da­tion if cost isn’t an is­sue. Merg­ing fash­ion and hos­pi­tal­ity, Bri­tish de­signer Jasper Con­ran’s re­cently opened fivesuite L’Hô­tel Mar­rakech gives a glam ’30s spin to a 19th-cen­tury riad. Valérie Barkowski’s Dar Kawa takes the op­po­site tack with four rooms in the tex­tile de­signer’s for­mer home done in an un­der­stated pal­ette of black, grey and white.

TASTE The city’s great de­sign aes­thetic stretches to din­ing venues too. A short list of chic hot spots in­cludes Le Jardin, a gar­den court­yard swathed in bot­tle-green mo­saic tile; the white­washed La Famille, which looks like it was lifted straight out of Ibiza; the airy rooftop at trendy No­mad; and the ve­randa of long-time lo­cal favourite Grand Café de la Poste. Of course, with wow style and a splashy Euro crowd, nightlife is golden in Mar­rakech. Azar, Le Palace and the Bill Willis-de­signed Dar Ya­cout are the spots for glam din­ners. Buzzy Comp­toir Darna, Kech­mara and Point­bar are all favoured wa­ter­ing holes. Satur­days, it’s late-night danc­ing at Theatro in a bliz­zard of con­fetti. Fri­day even­ings, there’s only one place to be: Bô-Zin. I fin­ish a late sup­per with friends here on our last evening in Mar­rakech. The din­ner crowd rolls in for drinks, and the bar turns into a mid­night dance floor. I’ll be trag­i­cally hun­gover for my morn­ing flight to a wed­ding in the South of France, but who cares? I’m more con­cerned about the ex­tra bag­gage fees. n

Clock­wise, from top: Musée Yves Saint Lau­rent Mar­rakech; blan­kets and pil­lows in the mar­ket; the main square, Je­maa el-Fnaa

From top: Fur­ni­ture shop Min­is­tero del Gusto; the Sa­hara Desert, just out­side the city; ac­ces­sories bou­tique Lalla

A ju­nior suite at El Fenn; Tré­sor des No­mades (be­low); Riad Dixneuf la Ksour (bot­tom)

ad­ja­cent to the Jardin Ma­jorelle. Ele­gantly con­tem­po­rary—4,000 square me­tres of bur­nished brass, mo­saic tile and gleam­ing ter­razzo de­signed by the au fait Parisian firm Stu­dio KO—the build­ing will house a per­ma­nent ret­ro­spec­tive of the de­signer’s work drawn from the vast ar­chives of the Fon­da­tion Pierre Bergé-Yves Saint Lau­rent. With its sun-splashed café, au­di­to­rium, gallery and event space, re­volv­ing art ex­hibits and 5,000-vol­ume re­search li­brary de­voted to fash­ion, botany and Moroc­can de­sign, it’s as much a cul­tural cen­tre as it is a mu­seum. Its open­ing co­in­cides with the ren­o­va­tion of a com­ple­men­tary sis­ter mu­seum in the de­signer’s Av­enue Marceau ate­lier. “Paris rep­re­sents creation, while Mar­rakech sym­bol­izes in­spi­ra­tion,” says Mar­rakech mu­seum di­rec­tor Björn Dahlström. Sadly, Bergé passed away in Septem­ber, just weeks be­fore both sites were poised for their au­tumn de­buts. But, hav­ing over­seen ev­ery de­tail of the mu­se­ums, he surely knew what mas­ter­pieces they’d turn out to be.

Clock­wise, from top left: The court­yard at bou­tique ho­tel

El Fenn; L’Hô­tel Mar­rakech; must-visit din­ing spots Le Jardin and La Famille

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