Marlene Glows!

ElektroCouture’s Swarovski-lit #MarleneGlows Gown is Honored with a Google Arts & Culture Exhibit

It’s two years since an extraordinary gown (the subject of its own documentary) set off on a world tour. Now it’s been recognized by the Google Arts & Culture collection. What’s so special about this dress? Not only is it a FashionTech pioneer, it has brought to life, for the first time, a visionary design sketched in 1958 by style icon Marlene Dietrich.

One of the most charismatic stars of Hollywood’s Golden Age, Marlene Dietrich was a woman in control of her image, right down to the tiniest detail. She made the femme fatale role her own and understood the importance of costume design and lighting, including the way they interacted to create drama. One of her dreams was to create a gown that would light up the stage – literally. In her letters to designer Jean Louis, she wrote: “The most important thing is effect. We have to find a way to make the dress glow.”

It was an eye-catching idea, but Marlene wanted absolute control, of course. This is where her plans rocketed ahead of their time: what she described was a piece of wearable technology – an interactive dress: “If you’re worried about the technical side… I make the contact with my foot (on a wire running to a small plate on the sole). The contact plate, which is fed electricity by the main line, is on the floor of the stage. This way, I can light up and take the light off at will.”

While brilliantly innovative, it wasn’t possible to achieve her vision in 1958, given that the risk of electric shock was just one of the problems to overcome! Fast-forward almost 70 years to an exciting partnership between high-tech fashion label ElektroCouture and e-broidery® firm Forster Rohner Textile Innovations, and Marlene’s dream has become a reality.

Inspired by her original sketches, ElektroCouture set out to marry couture-level handcraftsmanship with state-of-the-art technologies. Founder Lisa Lang explains: “We wanted to make a dress relevant for 2017, not 1958. It has the sparkle and flowers that Marlene wanted, but the flowers are created with 3D printing and laser-cut technology, then hand-sewn to the haute-couture dress.”

Lang also turned to Forster Rohner, which has been developing LED light-animated textiles using Swarovski’s “functional crystals”. It lit up the floral detailing with 151 Osram LEDs and 2,371 custom crystals – the LEDs can be switched on remotely and change the light patterns to set the mood. The result is a sheer, petal-pink tulle marvel of science that showcases how yesterday’s creative fantasies can shape tomorrow’s commercial realities.

Its unique history and innovative quality have made the #MarleneGlows gown one of the first contemporary FashionTech pieces to be inducted into the Google Arts & Culture online collection, with the support of the Association of German Fashion & Textile Designers (VDMD). It’s no less than Marlene Dietrich deserves. So, we’re giving her the last (Instagram-anticipating) word: “I dress for the image. Not for myself, not for the public, not for fashion, not for men.”

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Photographer Andreas Waldschuetz
Model Lena Gehrmann