PAKT is the Smart WardrobeTM platform that was created with Hong Kong in mind. Catering to the needs of frequent travellers and busy professionals in this densely-populated and humid city, their unique platform for wardrobe management has services to save time and space, ranging from clothes collection, delivery, cataloguing, pressing, dry-cleaning and more — available on the go at the touch of a smartphone.
Now with numerous people using the platform — including Hong Kong-based model Amanda S, Dervla Louli Musgrave, Founder of Compare Retreats and Karla Otto Senior Vice President, Arne Eggers — the on-demand wardrobe service is going from strength to strength. We sat down with PAKT CEO and Founder, Barbara Yu Larsson, to find out where it all began and what the future holds.
You previously worked in investment banking and executive search; now, you’re the CEO of a Smart Wardrobe startup. What was it like making the transition into a new industry? Have you always had an entrepreneurial spirit?
I don’t think I had this entrepreneurial spirit that was dying to be realised. But I was never afraid to speak my mind or work hard. And I’ve always been really good at connecting dots. It’s a question of knowing who to speak to and when. I didn’t push any brand ambassadors in the first two years of PAKT because I didn’t think it was the right time. I didn’t talk to the CEOs of big property companies until my service was absolutely tried and tested, and the execution was perfect. And I’ve always understood that. It was more that I saw an interesting opportunity and a need in Hong Kong, that’s what got me started.
It’s a big difference from working in the corporate world. I had a very specific job where I didn’t need to think 360 [degrees] all the time. But having a startup means that you have to be really willing to roll up your sleeves and do everything. In the first six months, I was out there with my team handing out flyers! I also really wanted to create this team atmosphere, so I would cook a big chicken salad every Wednesday so we could have lunch together, which is something you wouldn’t do in a corporate environment. I wanted everyone to feel like they’re a part of the PAKT journey and that all ideas are welcome.
You’ve lived and worked in London and New York; what precipitated the move to Hong Kong?
My ex-husband’s business brought him to Hong Kong regularly, which meant we were coming here at least once or twice a year. And then my mother passed away in December 2009, and that prompted us to move to Asia. My father was a diplomat, so I grew up in New York and then college, grad school and investment banking led me to all these different places. But I had never actually lived in Asia for an extensive period of time. And as a Mandarin speaker, I wanted to see what it would be like, and I thought Hong Kong was probably the best place in Asia to move to initially.
Given Hong Kong’s limited space, it’s hard to imagine a better city for a service like PAKT, which stores customers’ wardrobe pieces in a climate-controlled facility. Do you have plans to expand to other markets or is your focus solely here?
The main focus currently is pan-Asia, especially in those cities [like Hong Kong] that are running out of space and have humidity issues. But we’re ambitious so we see PAKT as a global business. Currently, we have a footprint in Tokyo with a Japanese partner and through a strategic partnership in London and Monaco.
The world is on the move and we don’t live the way we used to: people don’t stay in one place for the whole year, some live in smaller places or have multiple homes. They are more open to moving around and everyone goes on more holidays, too. So where do they keep all their clothes? That’s where PAKT Smart Wardrobe comes in. Being able to have your wardrobe available at the touch of a button means, if you need a winter coat to go to Europe or an evening dress for an event, you can just get it delivered and those items aren’t hanging in your wardrobe taking up space.
Aside from customers using PAKT to cut down on the number of items they have to store at home, have there been any surprising or unexpected ways in which people have used the service?
There’s something we like to call “PAKT Secret”, where clients who don’t want their husbands, wives, or partners to know that they’ve been shopping, are able to place items away discreetly.
What’s been the most enlightening and/or surprising feedback from PAKT customers?
I think what surprises me every time is when clients start the service, they come back and tell us how much they love the service and cannot understand why they didn’t start it sooner. We have one of those services that I can explain until I’m blue in the face, but until you actually try it, you are not going to understand how convenient and how much easier it is, and how much space you save.
What’s your vision for the future of PAKT?
Our vision is to create the Smart Wardrobe of the future. So we are now building an app that is going to be the first part of this, and it will integrate the online platform, or digital wardrobe, with the physical services as well, to the offsite wardrobe.
We are creating this platform where we can understand more about what you’re wearing or storing, and then also what you might like to sell, share, or rent — as a total service and lifestyle solution. Ultimately, we want to revolutionise how people relate to what they wear.
Interested to try PAKT for yourself? Prestige Online readers can enjoy 20% off PAKT LUXE or a 1-month free trial of PAKT X Wardrobe Extension. To redeem this offer, call PAKT on +852 3462 9555 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org, quoting ‘Prestige1’ promo code. Terms and conditions apply.