While tech experts have been talking about how virtual reality will transform retail for years now, the trend just got two unexpectedly different entrants. High-end retailer Barneys New York is using a partnership with modern-dance legends to sell spring fashion. And Walmart, at the other end of the demographic spectrum, last month scooped up Spatialand, the VR startup that has worked with Oculus, Reebok and Intel.
Predictably, Barneys is elevating the performance to an utterly-out-there effort, melding avant-garde fashion, futuristic technology and complex dance in an 11-minute dance performance. Shot with 360-degree technology, it’s sharing it online via Samsung VR, but also in store windows in New York and Beverly Hills. And those stores are offering the experience in stores as well.
“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,” says Barneys creative director Matthew Mazzucca, in the privately held store’s announcement. “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 says the effort, choreographed by Cynthia Stanley and photographed by her husband, Theo Stanley, took more than a year of research and conceptualization, aimed at putting the viewer at the center and creating “an audience of one.” Fashions are from the spring and summer collections of Prabal Gurung, The Row, Rick Owens, and Loewe. A teaser for the effort is running on Barney’s social-media channels.
The performance is by the Martha Graham Dance Company, and many of the dancers have been with the group for decades.
The Walmart acquisition, made through Store No. 8, its innovation lab launched in Silicon Valley last year, is part of the retailer’s plan to “explore the transformational effects of virtual reality in commerce,” it says in its announcement. It adds that the new VR team will work on “new products and uses of VR through immersive retail environments that can be incorporated by all facets of Walmart, online and offline.”
Many retailers are experimenting to find ways to make VR shoppable, such brands as Lowe’s, the North Face and Wayfair are actively using them with consumers.