Dana Lenko, Lenko Boutique, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
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An interview with Dana Lenko

Dana Lenko chats about her colourful, animal mad and made-in-Melbourne clothing label, Lenko.

In 1999 Dana Lenko set up her own fashion label, Lenko, in an attempt to stave off a real job. Today Lenko is available around Australia, the UK and Asia, and Dana has opened a new Lenko Boutique in Melbourne's laneways described as an 'oasis of randomness in the city center'. We chat to Dana about life in the laneways and what she does in Melbourne when she's not at Lenko.

Tell us a bit about the inspiration behind Lenko and how the label has evolved over the years.
I started the label as a t-shirt brand when I was a teenager, so it has grown over the years to a full collection of clothing. I actually never studied fashion formally; I studied film and art, so to me the design process is another creative expression. I love to make effortless clothing that makes you feel good. I'm inspired by colours and textures and beautiful fabrics. I love that our label is all made in Melbourne and our customers are interactive with our design process – especially with our yearly Lenko Animal Sweaters – where they help choose the animals!

Describe a typical day at Lenko Boutique.
Every day is so different here! New deliveries come daily from around the world and from local designers too. The collection is always evolving. Our customers are the cutest people on the planet. Sometimes people stumble in not having been here before and take a moment to absorb all the colours and activity, but most people seem to get it and enjoy the experience! We try to have lots of launches for new ranges and art exhibitions in our Lenko Art Window to promote local artists. There are lots of little corners to explore and interesting treats and treasures so people like to spend a bit of time looking around and asking questions. We are situated on Flinders Lane which is my favourite place to shop in Melbourne because it's a real neighbourhood of independent designers.

What makes having a store in a Melbourne laneway different from a regular high street in any other city?
Perhaps the story telling aspect. It's an adventure to find us and once you do the stock is quite different and has an air of fun and play about it. So it's a whole experience to come in and find items you will treasure and not just wear once and throw away. We try to stock designers with good business morals and not sweat-shopped or mass-produced items. All of our in-house label Lenko clothing is made here in Melbourne – that's becoming a rarer thing to find too.

Do you find Melburnians are more receptive to boutique and designer, than high street fashion?
I'm not sure, but there is definitely an appreciation of creative Melbourne and well-made clothing. People are starting to understand where their clothes are made and have more of a social conscience. It's way more fun to shop in a local neighbourhood that supports a creative community than just a mainstream mass-produced store.

What is the typical profile of your customers?
We have a really broad audience and a lot of regular customers who we adore. Being in the city we host a lot of tourists coming in to find something special to remind them of their trip. Clothing and jewellery can really transport you to where you were when you bought it, so hopefully a lot of our beautiful items are now around the world, still making people happy. Melbourne is a shoppers' city, so we attract people who love shopping adventures and things they can't find anywhere else. People who love animals – we have a lot of animal themed clothing, jewellery and art here.

What item are you selling in the store currently, that you'd most like for yourself?
That is a really hard question because I love everything in here! I get to choose the stock that comes in so I want it all! At the moment I'm loving the Symantha Rose Resin jewellery made in Melbourne, the Cheezels rings by Eat Me DO, I'm super excited for the new collections by Chip Chop, Clover Canyon (USA) and Lazy Oaf (UK) about to arrive, and the animal porcelain rings from Nach France.

What lies ahead for Lenko?
I'm excited for our Christmas season – so many great new brands are coming in. I'm working on a few secret projects so I'll be keeping busy!

What is the one thing you would tell visitors to Melbourne not to miss?
Laneway shopping and cafes. There are so many great shops and cafes to explore, and the night life is great fun with so many bars and a really vibrant music scene. There are always festivals happening for music, comedy, film and fashion so just check what's on when you get in and take advantage of all the events!

When you escape in Victoria for a long weekend, where do you go?
If I want a fun adventure I'll head down to the stunning beaches on the way to Anglesea and attempt to surf or body board. If I feel like relaxing I'll visit the hot springs in the Mornington Peninsula and hang out like a snow monkey!

Dana's escapes

Lanes & arcades