Leandra Medine: Man Repeller About Town
Just before the launch of her new clothing line, Lifestyle Mirror reveals a side of The Man Repeller you’ve never seen before. Photographed by Bridget Fleming. Styled by Alex Sweterlitsch. Hair and Makeup by Jillian Halouska. Video by Giorgio Arcelli Fontana.
It started with some innocent girl talk. In 2010, Leandra Medine was browsing the racks with a friend at Topshop, complaining about the sorry state of her love life. Her friend told her: “You’re probably not finding a boyfriend because of the way you dress.”
And just like that, a blog sensation was born.
Medine launched The Man Repeller, a style site centered on “outfitting oneself in a sartorially offensive mode that may result in repelling members of the opposite sex.” Forget body-con dresses. She’s more likely to pile on fashion-forward items that might confuse or repulse most straight dudes: harem pants, ponchos, shoulder pads, overalls, outrageous accessories, and clogs. (Oh, and she also coined the term “arm party” to describe stacking bracelets on bracelets on bracelets.)
Her writing style is seriously sharp, funny, and goofy. But Medine guesses that it’s her honesty that resonates most with readers. “I say things that I hope other people are thinking but are just uncomfortable to admit,” she says. “It’s nice to know that someone’s as weird as you… I’m not very vanilla.”
This call-it-as-she-sees-it attitude has won her about two million page views per month and cool designer collaborations with brands like Rachel Roy, Coach, Maje, and Barneys New York.
And just in time for New York Fashion Week, Medine’s first clothing collection, Man Repeller x PJK, is available on February 14th here. “I just wanted to create clothing that doesn’t exist, but exists in my head and that I wish existed in real life,” she says. “So the inspiration was just thin air.” The line features pieces like high-waist organza shorts with wide leg holes that make legs look slimmer, cropped boxy bomber jackets, and flare leg overalls. Her favorite piece is a washed, silk mermaid skirt she calls “very wearable.”
“The only style tip that I will ever give is to try what you want to try when you’re most scared,” she says. “I spent so much time not wearing what I wanted to wear… but who cares? When you don’t get dressed for yourself and you’re thinking, I want to look good for this person or that person, you turn out looking so much worse than you would have if you just worn what was in your heart.”
And while she discusses everything from her recent DIY haircut and links to articles about high-end escorts on the blog, a few topics are off-limits. “I won’t talk about politics,” she says. “I know a lot of Romney fans. I’ve never said that out loud.”
And up until Medine got engaged, she didn’t mention her significant other on the site. Turns out, The Man Repeller had a behind-the-scenes boyfriend. A backlash began after she announced her engagement, but she wasn’t surprised by the hurt reaction from readers. “I understood where they were coming from,” she says. “I lead this open life and everything seemed so personal, even though it’s more personable than it is personal, and so, if I feel like I became so invested in this person’s life that I was checking their blog maniacally and buying what they were telling me to buy, and then one day, she was like, ‘In spite of my name being Man-Repeller, I’m getting married.’ I would also be like, ‘You liar.’”
Why keep Mr. Repeller under wraps this whole time? “I never told anyone about him because we were in a boyfriend-girlfriend relationship,” she says. “I didn’t want to have to explain, ‘By the way, here’s my boyfriend.’ And then when we broke up, I’d have to be like, ‘Let me share my misery with all four million of you.’” So I didn’t think it was worth it. And then we got engaged and I was like, ‘He’s not going anywhere, better tell people that he exists.’”
Her now-husband makes sporadic appearances on the site. “He always says he was initially drawn to my self-confidence and goofy sexiness,” she says. “I think he just understands what Man-Repellent is. He’s kind of Man-Repellent himself.” For example, she refuses his constant requests to buy him harem pants. “He works at a bank. What does he want to do? ‘Dow Jones is down today, and so is my crotch,’” she deadpans, then lets out a laugh.
With her six month wedding anniversary behind her, a clothing line about to launch, and New York Fashion Week days away, Medine is already onto the next one: writing a book of essays on style, life, and funniness to be published next year. “I write because I have a lot to say and because I think it’s a gift to be able to express your opinion with words,” she says. “And even if I’m not a particularly good writer, at least I’m doing it.”
The book makes her nervous, though. “I think people are expecting a picture book and there are no images. Just words,” she says. So how will her book compare to The Man Repeller blog? She rattles off all the differences and then pauses for a moment. Finally, she finds the thread that runs through her empire: “Me.”—Maridel Reyes(@maridelreyes)