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Culture / Travel

Jet-Set Dispatch

Morocco With Matt Johns

BY // 04.07.15
photography Molly Winters

Matt Johns packed his bags when the Moroccan Ministry of Artisanal Design came calling, requesting that Johns (who owns Houston-based creative studio Matter) research ideas and sources in Morocco for a pop-up shop for Austin-based Casablanca Living. Here’s what caught his exacting eye.

WHERE YOU STAYED.
El Fenn in Marrakech and Riad Fes, Maison Bleu in Fes.

CUISINE. 
There’s no need to go anywhere when you stay at El Fenn in Marrakech, but they have incredible recommendations, and the nightlife and restaurants do not disappoint. The most memorable meal I had was at Stephen DiRenza’s Numero 7. A guide leads you through the labyrinth of the Medina in Fes, and after several twists and turns, you arrive at a small entrance to the restaurant just adjacent to Stephen’s impossibly chic boutique hotel, Riad Numero 9. The restaurant features a residency for chefs from around the world and you enjoy a prix fixe menu that does not disappoint.

Marrakech taught me color. — Yves Saint Laurent

SHOPPING. 
Everywhere imaginable. The souks are beyond words, and we went all over to source some of the most incredible objects — mainly home accessories, all created by hand by artisans who are maintaining the traditional techniques while also exploring some really current concepts. We are excited to be bringing these items to a series of popup shops with Casablanca Living in Texas in fall of 2015.

TWO HIGHLIGHTS:
Jardin Majorelle: Walking into the Jardin Majorelle store was breathtaking, especially for someone who has been obsessed with Yves Saint Laurent since I can remember identifying the power of design. The private residence of Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Berge is closed to the public, but the grounds are open and amazing. Hidden just beyond the garden is the shop, which is home to a variety of apparel, accessories and some home goods all designed under the guidance of seasoned creative director Stephen DiRenza, who showed me around the shop. Everything you might imagine in an Yves Saint Laurent-meets-modern-Marrakech story is here, and there is plenty of Majorelle blue to go around.

Holiday Gifting

  • Wayne Smith
  • Elaine Turner - Felicia Stole in Magenta
  • Mariquite Masterson
  • Elaine Turner - GiGi Flats
  • Cotton Club
  • Cle Du Peau - Nail Polish
  • Bond No 9 - Perfume
  • Cle Du Peau - Lip Gloss
  • Oscar De La Renta - Clutch
  • Wayne Smith
  • Museum of Fine Arts Houston
  • Loeffler Randall - Shoes
  • Oscar De La Renta - Earrings
  • Mariquite Masterson
  • Loeffler Randall - Clutch
  • Bond No 9 - Candle
  • Asher Gallery
  • Cotton Club

33 Rue Majorelle: Just down the road is the perfect juxtaposition to the shop at Jardin Majorelle, featuring new designs from contemporary makers. Here you will find playful updates using traditional techniques with just the right amounts of rebellion and casual sophistication. From apparel to home accessories, you are guaranteed to find something to inspire you. The retail space is designed so well, you might come for the inventory but stay for the experience.

SCENERY.
Mosquee Hassan II (highly recommend—this is in Casablanca); Nouveau Musee des Arts Contemporains (Rabat, Morocco); Hotel Royal Mansour and Yves Saint Laurent residence et Jardins Majorelle.

HIGH POINTS OF THE TRIP. 
Breakfast every morning on the rooftop of El Fenn. Southern hospitality can only be rivaled by that of the Moroccan culture. The fireplace in your room is lit upon request, and nine turtles live in the road, which smells of orange blossom and mint tea. Yves Saint Laurent once said, “Marrakech taught me color,” and I feel the same. The artisans and designers we met and worked with for this project are working on design that is current and fresh, and they do so effortlessly. They have mastered the art of their specific craft — a tradition that has been cultivated and maintained for thousands of years, yet they have found a way to give it a voice within the current landscape.

WOULD YOU GO BACK? 
I can be ready in 15.

WHAT TO PACK FOR YOUR OWN MOROCCAN SOJOURN:

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