LKNU started out as online-only in 2015, bringing a carefully curated range of niche, hard-to-find and independent perfumes from across the world to Australia. But it recently branched out IRL, opening a flagship boutique in Melbourne’s Emporium.
Its offering stands out boldly in a market that’s dominated by mass-manufactured scents from big fashion houses and celebrities. At LKNU, the focus is squarely on eclectic, diverse fragrances from brands in Thailand, Canada, Scandinavia and beyond.
With so many out-of-the-box, and at times challenging, perfumes available, LKNU could easily feel more like a museum of perfumes – intimidating or overwhelming the customer – than a store. But thankfully, due to its thoughtful design, it doesn’t. The calming, curvaceous fit-out was designed by award-winning local architecture and design studio Russell & George (which most recently executed Society).
Perfumes sit on a cluster of cylindrical oak plinths in the centre of the space, and in a sprawling, backlit alcove in the wall. Also find plush velvety seating areas (for discussion and deliberation), and a library of booklets dedicated to the story behind popular perfume notes such as sandalwood, orange blossom and blackcurrant bud.
LKNU’s education manager Liam Sardea says you’re in for a personalised experience, rather than a cookie-cutter sales pitch. “We just have a chat,” he says. “They might say, ‘I’m getting married in March’, or, ‘I smelled this fragrance that reminded me of my grandmother’. We use those cues to curate a selection of fragrances.”
I ask Sardea to give me a sense of one of the more unusual perfumes and he delivers a scent from animal-inspired brand Zoologist called Bat. It immediately takes me back to a dark, musty cave I once explored in Borneo many years ago, but the (albeit subtle) top notes also evoke aromas of fig, passionfruit and guava.
That’s not to say that there are only off-kilter fragrances available here. It’s also stocked with a plethora of more traditionally beautiful-smelling options for the less avant-garde. And while it’s likely there’ll be many brand names you don’t recognise, that’s part of LKNU’s allure – let the team help you discover something new.
Emporium Melbourne, Level 1/287 Lonsdale Street, Melbourne