Sometimes you need a key to access other people's work, to feel you have come to your own understanding of that work. I felt this about visiting Granville and really getting a feel for Christian Dior, who was born in this Normandy town. Visiting Morocco and, in particular, Les Jardins Majorelle in Marrakesh gave me an entry into Yves Saint Laurent and his context.
In some respects it's simply a formal Islamic-style garden, with an extensive collection of flora, for those who recognise such things. However, after getting my bearings I was overwhelmed and surprised by the colour. The blue in particular:
The electric blue with serene acquamarine:
The intensity of colours was quite astonishing. The yellow here at first grated but before long it came into an energetic focus and delighted me in a way I simply experienced without really understanding why:
Maybe it was a contrast of the dusky pink of Marrakesh that had been my backdrop for four days. After working with Ptolemy Mann on my Spring/Summer collection I realise that I respond to the affect of tonal contrast - so putting the bright next to the muted.
The connection with Yves Saint Laurent came when he used to visit this place, eventually buying a house next door, buying the gardens and restoring them to their former grandeur. YSL had been brought up in neighbouring French Algeria, so naturally, this was his context. I saw that all this boho, hippy, fashion-as-travel-experience came originally from him. Obviously he wasn't the only one but he was the first to draw in such a real way on the exotic and bring it into our clothing. I look to fashion practice; the 'research trip', the images, the colours and think that we owe this to YSL more than anyone.
It seems to me that it's now been overdone and with the ease of travel how much more of the world can we take in and send down the catwalk? Do we need to pillage these cultures anyway? There was something very connected between YSL and his north African legacy but I don't know how much it truly works when John Galliano, for example, drew on the Masai tribesmen for his first Dior couture collection in 1997. it was beautiful and amazing but now I realise how it missed something for me; it didn't resonate at that deep personal level. I think that is where the magic is.
So what do we seek to inform our design now if travel is a tired research concept of the 20th century? I think it was probably Miuccia Prada who heralded a new internalised, more intellectual and conceptual approach to fashion. Maybe it's about expressing something about an internal process, rather than responding to the external or visual.