Barneys Wants to Tell a Memorable Story With VR, Fashion and Dance

The experience has been in the works for over a year

Barneys created an 11-minute movie, Mantle, which was filmed with 360-degree camera technology. Courtesy of Barneys/Photographed by Theo Stanley
Headshot of Lisa Lacy

Luxury retailer Barneys New York seeks to tell a story shoppers will remember in its new VR experience.

In partnership with electronics company Samsung and contemporary dance troupe the Martha Graham Dance Company, Barneys released its 11-minute movie, Mantle, which was filmed with 360-degree camera technology. The film incorporates four principal dancers, whom Barneys says “embody character archetypes representing parts of the human psyche: Power, Ethereal, Possessed and The Cleaner.”

According to a blog post on Barney’s content hub, The Window, the film is the result of more than a year of work and intends to put the viewer at the center as dancers look inward toward a central focus point where the camera was placed.

“Every aspect was specifically designed as an interaction between the performers and ‘an audience of one,’” Barneys said in the post. (The brand did not respond to a request for comment.)

The cast wears—and, Barneys says, “bring[s] movement to”—clothing from designers like Prabal Gurung, The Row, Rick Owens, Loewe and Craig Green. The apparel, which ranges in price from a $330 T-shirt to a $4,000 dress, is also highlighted on the blog post in a section called Shop the Story.

The experience can be viewed on Samsung headsets at Barneys’ Madison Avenue, Downtown and Beverly Hills flagships, as well as via the Samsung VR app and on

“Barneys’ mission is to allow people to interact with our creative content in as many ways as possible, and technology can bring this dance piece to life in an unprecedented way,” said Barneys creative director Matthew Mazzucca in the post. “Within VR and 360 environments, as well as through the variety of formats we’ve created, no two viewers will have the same experience of the dance, and that’s exciting.”

It’s also an experience Mazzuca hopes viewers will remember, the post said—and it’s certainly possible, according to Dario Raciti, director of Zero Code, the interactive entertainment division of media company OMD. Raciti, who is not a part of this activation, said VR has become a platform that deliver memorable experiences, if done well.

“What they’re trying to do here is deliver something memorable and presented in a different way than what they’ve perhaps done in the past on a rectangular TV screen,” he said. “VR is such a flexible platform. … Looking at that dance on 2D screen would have been less memorable to a user than seeing it in a VR headset. That’s the element VR brings to the table, whether interactive or linear: the level of memorability of an experience that is higher.”

There are a range of potentially memorable applications for VR in retail. Walmart, for example, has not disclosed specific plans, but called out enhanced product testing, interactive ecommerce experiences and the ability to anticipate consumer needs and establish trust as potential uses for VR.

Meanwhile, research from mobile retail app developer GPShopper found that 46 percent of respondents want to use VR to try on clothing and accessories without going into a store. About 42 percent want to use VR to see where and how a product was made, while 23 percent want access to a personal shopper in a virtual environment.

That said, consumers have high expectations for both VR and AR, said Joey Camire, principal at consultancy Sylvain Labs.

“Obviously, you can add value in myriad ways,” he said. “If the experience is truly unique and special, but only providing entertainment value, that can still be worth doing. But the expectations will be high. One of the things that has plagued VR is that based on portrayals in popular culture, expectations are just so high. Even when something is an incredible feat of production and technical expertise, it can still fall flat to someone who doesn’t have an eye or background for that.”

@lisalacy Lisa Lacy is a senior writer at Adweek, where she focuses on retail and the growing reach of Amazon.