Hong Kong start-up finds space in wardrobe storage market for people on the go

Pakt and global counterparts don’t just warehouse your clothes and shoes, but catalogue them online, clean and repair them, or donate them to charity, and employ stylists to help put together a look. They’ll even organise your closet

PUBLISHED : Friday, 11 March, 2016, 4:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 14 March, 2016, 11:03am

Space is a luxury in any city, and Hong Kong is no exception. For many years fashion lovers in the city have faced the challenge of fitting their growing clothes and accessories collections into their limited wardrobe space. Until now options have been restricted to mass-market storage facilities, such as Klosit, or dry cleaners, who will store selected items such as furs for a short period of time.

With such a glaring gap in the market it was only a matter of time before professional and luxury wardrobe storage solutions would land in Hong Kong.

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“The practice of consuming, collecting and preserving fashion as ‘wearable art’ has grown globally. This isn’t specific to Asia. However, Hong Kong does have a concentration of wealthy, fashionable residents living in apartments, plus the need for seasonal wardrobes. The climate also requires special handling of precious textiles or else they will be ruined,” says Doug Greenberg, co-founder and vice-president of Garde Robe Online.

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Already popular in places such as Los Angeles and New York, luxury storage companies offer services that go beyond storing goods. Garde Robe, which was founded in 2001 and includes clients such as fashion designer Oscar de la Renta, bills itself “wardrobe and archive management experts”.

In addition to offering museum-quality storage (members receive a condition report and garment care service recommendations), it also catalogues and professionally photographs each item to create a cyber closet online which members can use to search, create looks and select items for on-demand delivery.

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Add-ons include closet organising, fashion styling, personal shopping, luggage packing, at-home seamstress/tailoring services, consignment and charitable donation advisory, and historical fashion research.

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“Garde Robe is truly a bespoke service. All services are customised to suit our members’ particular needs. We listen to their feedback. For example, early on, several members required access to their wardrobe from various locations, so we established an elegant and convenient alternative to traditional packing and luggage services with our luggage-free valet service, which we pioneered in 2004,” says Greenberg.

While Garde Robe has just launched in Australia and is eyeing Hong Kong, Pakt is Asia’s first home-grown service of this kind. It was founded late last year by former investment banker Barbara Yu Larsson, who consistently struggled to find a place to store her extensive wardrobe after moving to Hong Kong in 2010.

“Our service is for modern city professionals who travel frequently but are faced with issues such as humidity, seasons, expensive properties and limited housing,” says Larsson.

Launched officially in September, Pakt gives members access to what Larsson calls a “clean room” in Chai Wan. The space is equipped with the essentials – dehumidifiers and dust and odour filters – and is insured against fire, theft and water damage (additional insurance is available upon request). Pakt encourages members to view the space before signing up.

Pakt works on a tier membership system (gold, silver and bronze) that gives users points based on how much they pay per month. Prices start at HK$899 and go up to HK$3,650. For example, Bronze members have 100 points, which will allow them to store approximately 30 knee-length dresses, 20 suits or 40 pairs of shoes. Collection is always free, but points are deducted for additional services including deliveries, and can be rolled over each month.

Like Garde Robe, Pakt offers a professional online catalogue of items as well as a “clothes spa”, which includes dry cleaning, steaming, pressing and repairs. It also offers access to stylists who will work with members on wardrobe edits, charity donations and personal shopping.

Pakt has proved popular with Hongkongers wanting to store items such as shoes. By the end of next year it plans to have a 30,000 sq ft warehouse and is on schedule to secure 300-plus members. Launching the service has had its own challenges.

“It’s about educating people and telling them there is an alternative to wardrobe storing that’s not self-storage, not box storage. No other storage company can deliver your husband’s black tie outfit to the office and collect it again when you are done with it. We can look after [items] better than the customers can,” says Larsson.

Looking ahead, Larsson has plans to grow Pakt further.

“We see ourselves as a home-grown tech company. We are now building a sharing and trading platform where friends have access to each other’s wardrobe. You can share and swap items and you will be able to sell what you no longer want. You can also donate your clothes through our charity partners. We really want to emphasise this idea of sustainability,” she says.