Hong Kong entrepreneur Barbara Yu Larsson’s business idea provides virtual closets to businesswomen on-the-go
PAKT is a luxury on-demand digital wardrobe solution for the time-strapped global business traveler and is a business idea with a difference within the regions thriving tech sector.
As a premier online destination for women who need to store and manage their clothes, PAKT is a virtual closet which instantly removes the headache of never having enough wardrobe space at home, whilst caring for treasured clothing items along the way.
This business idea was conceived and developed by businesswoman and former investment banker, Barbara Yu Larsson who determined that a lack of home wardrobe space could be solved by using technology to provide a full concierge and modern wardrobe service away from home.
Today PAKT includes a per item retrieval capability, an on-demand service and provides an essential photo catalogue of stored items to its members.
The brand also also offers a useful ‘Clothes Spa’ service and is soon to launch a unique, community driven ‘Share, Sell and Donate’ service where PAKT members can happily and effortlessly share their clothes with their friends, sell them second hand or donate them to charity.
‘My vision with PAKT is to change the way people relate to their clothes and personal possessions. We combine a tech platform with expert clothing care. We provide per item retrieval capability on demand. In short, a wardrobe away from home.’- Barbara Yu Larsson, Founder & CEO, PAKT.
Here Barbara tells Nativa World why and how she developed her business idea and why PAKT is fast becoming Hong Kong’s latest tech success story…
Barbara, what does the word ‘Achieve’ mean to you?
It signifies positive energy and of doing something you are proud of. It is about persistence, success and results but that doesn’t make the journey any less important.
When did you first become interested in fashion and taking better care of clothes?
My interest in fashion and clothes began when I spent time in Paris working at Lehman Brothers in their Government Advisory Group in the early 1980s. I made regular trips to Paris which is such an elegant city and one where the women were so stylish. I often stayed there for weeks at a time. Whenever I walked from the hotel to the office I would pass the Rue du Faubourg St. Honore, which is a street with beautiful and trendy shops, as well as couture brands. One of these stores was run by a young team of fashion designers, who had just started an Haute Couture brand. It was called Lecoanet Hemant. Many of their designs had an oriental look to many of their designs, which suited me well and luckily I fitted into all of their sample sizes! So, I slowly started collecting their dresses, suits and evening gowns. Unfortunately, these beautiful clothes disappeared over the years as I moved around the world, but I still have one remaining dress, now stored at PAKT that has lasted over 30 years. It’s still in very good condition. From that time I began to appreciate beautiful fabrics and workmanship which continued when I met Nadia Lavalle, an inspirational fashion designer whose magnificent creations I still have. Several of her evening dresses featyre in the PAKT video which we are about to release. She also designed my wedding dress!
How did you find that there was a need to provide a virtual wardrobe solution?
I have been thinking about the PAKT concept for the last ten years. I came up with a ‘wardrobe away from home’ project in London in 2007 working with a logistics partner and a fashion designer. For our specific target market at that time, we developed individual wardrobe pods which could be delivered to people’s homes for them to sort and store their clothes in. We thought about a photo catalogue, but in the end more people preferred a wardrobe which could be locked up.
When I moved to Hong Kong in 2010, we stayed in a wonderful serviced apartment, but I needed an extra bedroom just for the storage space. I have realized for a long time that I don’t need all my beautiful things with me, all the time. If I knew they were being cared for in a clean and temperature controlled environment with a photo inventory and on demand access, why would I want to have my wardrobe overstuffed with clothes and shoes?
How does PAKT work and what are its main benefits and services?
PAKT is a tech platform for wardrobe storage and management. It addresses the acute lack of home wardrobe space in Hong Kong, the humidity and temperature issues here, as well as expensive property prices and rents. Why keep your favorite dresses or seasonal coats at home when PAKT can take care of them for you? PAKT provides a full concierge wardrobe service, per item retrieval capability, on demand service and photo catalogue of stored items.
What is your definition of a ‘Modern Wardrobe’ ?
The word ‘Modern’ immediately evokes clean, spacious and organized. ‘Modern’ uses technology to improve or enable the wardrobe. In terns of clothes, ‘Modern’ is a combination of easy to mix separates with beautiful fabrics and timeless design. Clothes you will wear and wear again, treasure and share.
Who are your main users and why do they like PAKT?
The modern professional who has a busy work and social life, frequent travelers and people who love clothes. PAKT provides convenience and accessibility, PAKT helps de-clutter and simplify wardrobe management.PAKT also works with fashion stylists to help clients enhance their image and sense of style.
How has PAKT been received so far?
So far, PAKT is Hong Kong born and bred. It has been well received as one of the regions business ideas but as a new concept it takes time to increase brand awareness and to reach our target market. We also have ambitions to expand in Asia and further afield.
My vision with PAKT is to change the way people relate to their clothes and personal possessions. I also hope that PAKT creates a community and what you don’t use yourself, share, sell and donate with the club. In Hong Kong to date, we do not have any direct competitors. We are not Self Storage and we are not Box Storage. We combine a tech platform with expert clothing care. We provide per item retrieval capability on demand. In short, PAKT is a wardrobe away from home.
What is the ‘Clothes Spa’ service that PAKT provides?
The Clothes Spa is designed to make clothing care easier. If you are a frequent traveler and leave Hong Kong in August, why not ask us to dry-clean your dresses or suits, re-heel your shoes and make necessary repairs to hemlines and pockets?
What have been your main challenges as a founder?
Remaining confident and increasing brand awareness
Which are your favorite apps?
Spotify, Shazam, Wall St Journal, Slack, Pinterest and the Shanghai metro map.
What do you always pack when you travel?
I travel often and always pack a soft cashmere shawl and a thin cashmere jumper to put over a T-shirt en route because temperatures can vary. I use Tibetan Chrysanthemum eye pads, hydrating oil capsules from Environ and Aesop’s orange rind hand cream. I have EmergenC vitamin C sachets to hand and my reliable Chinese herbs for coughs and other throat irritations. I also always carry my Kindle which my children gave me for Christmas several years ago.
How do you maintain a good work/life balance?
I exercise a lot. I have a PT 2-3 times a week, I train with my Karate sensei twice a week and try to fit in Yoga once a week. I also walk as much as possible to and from meetings in Hong Kong. I love the Health app on the iPhone which counts my daily steps. I talk to my children regularly who are scattered across the globe and then talking about nothing and everything with my great friends in Hong Kong and reading thrillers!
Which are your favorite business travel destinations?
London, New York City and Shanghai.
What do you miss most of all when you are away from home on business?
I miss cooking and eating home-cooked food. After a late night, I miss a fried egg on toast with soy sauce.
Which businesswomen inspire you and why?
It’s fairly difficult to choose. I think of the early ones like Diane Von Furstenberg, who so successfully created an aspirational lifestyle brand, I am impressed by Rosalia Mera who started her career as a seamstress and with her husband created Zara and then there is Marissa Mayer who juggles a young family with the enormous task of guiding Yahoo in challenging times. But above all, my mother inspires me. She was not a businesswoman, but told me my entire life that I could do anything and achieve everything!
Barbara’s Startup Tips:
- Just do it
- Be passionate and believe in yourself
- Be willing to pivot and adapt
- Listen to your customers and competition
- Keep going
Barbara’s Travel Tips:
- BOSE noise canceling earphones – the soft squidgy ones
- Comfortable shoes
- Great playlist
- Great thriller
- A mini aspirin
You can learn more about PAKT by contacting Barbara’s team directly via the PAKT website or via firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photography courtesy of Barbara Yu Larsson and PAKT