Colour, Pattern, Nature...and Food - Marrakech, Morocco Posted on 14 Apr 14:00
It's always brilliant to go somewhere completely new for inspiration, and Marrakech, unsurprisingly, was such a treat. From the glorious beauty of Marjorelle Gardens to the vast warren of traders in the colourful souks, there is so much for a designer to absorb in this ancient city.
Pattern and decoration is hugely symbolic in Islamic culture, and when Muslims came to Morocco from the Middle East in the seventh century they brought with them a tradition of decorative art and design. Because animals and humans cannot be depicted in Islamic art, the complex geometrical designs we associate with Morocco developed; blues and greens were used in abundance to represent and celebrate nature. North African Muslims also ruled much of Southern Spain - the area we know now as Andalucia - and skilled tile workers from this region came to Marrakech to decorate palaces and royal tombs, creating the distinctive Moorish (Arab/Spanish) architectural style which is also abundant in the Andalucian capital, Seville.
The original inhabitants of Morocco were Berbers, and Marrakech is home to the largest number of Berber markets - the souks - comprising tens of thousands of stalls in total - I think our tour guide mentioned it was as many as forty thousand! Many of the stalls sell traditional Berber craft items, from colourful leather slippers to intricately patterned metal lanterns. Our wonderful three-hour guided tour of the main sites of Marrakech took us into the heart of the souks; it really is something to behold - the sheer scale and variety, the colour, the smells, the crafts-people, right there, welding lanterns behind a tiny alley...As you can imagine it's pretty hectic and very easy to get lost, which made being guided through it a great way to take everything in without constantly wondering where you are, or how you'll ever get out!
As a garden lover, one of my favourite places in Marrakech was the beautiful Jardin Marjorelle, created by French Painter Jaques Marjorelle (the dazzling shade of blue used extensively in the garden is named after him, Marjorelle Blue) and later bought and restored by Yves Saint-Laurent and Pierre Bergé. A daring combination of bright blue and yellow works so well in this exotic garden, full of cacti and palm trees. I have been inspired to be more daring with my own colours - expect more bold palettes from Renn Designs!
As a London city dweller, used to a fairly cool (ie dismal!) climate, it was so nice to be amongst the palm trees, cacti and borgainvillea which grow abundently in Morocco. I'd never been to a place where borgainvillea thrives so much and was particularly taken by the way it contrasts magnificently with the geometrical architecture and provides huge bursts of colour.
My favourite borgainvillea image of the trip is this one, below, of my beautiful friend Natalie appreciating it in the Moroccan sunshine.
I couldn't talk about Morocco without mentioning the food and the people. We met some really warm, welcoming and interesting locals on our trip, from a flamboyant and knowledgeable purveyor of argan oil - with a penchant for breaking into song - to the young food stall-holders who served us an array of authentic Moroccan dishes in the main square, on my birthday. Here we are shortly after having been sung Happy Birthday in Arabic and given a rose each - the charmers!