The art of Man Repelling

Date

Nicole Elphick

Fashion blogger, The Man Repeller Leandra Medine wearing a Nina Ricci dress on day 2 of Paris Fashion Week.

Fashion blogger, The Man Repeller Leandra Medine wearing a Nina Ricci dress on day 2 of Paris Fashion Week. Photo: Kirstin Sinclair

If Leandra Medine is in any way repulsive it’s in the same way a magnet repels while also attracting. Native New Yorker Medine is the creator of the popular fashion blog Man Repeller.

With her combination of witty writing, goofy poses and outré outfits she’s become an extremely influential voice in the online style realm. The playful tone of her blog was welcomed in a world where getting the perfect shot or latest it piece is pursued with intensity (Man Repeller’s Twitter tagline is “Because fashion doesn't have to be serious to be really, really good”).

Medine says her reasons for starting the blog were not because she thought it would be an immediate success, but instead to refine her writing chops (Sloane Crosley and David Sedaris have been cited as inspirations). “I didn’t imagine there would an audience,” says Medine via email. “After having studied journalism [at NYC’s New School] for three years, starting a blog was a very refreshing way to continue fine tuning [that] skill without constantly feeling slightly defeated.”

But it turned out her combination of humour and high fashion was indeed a winning combination. Her site began in only 2010 but now has more than 3.5 million visitors a month.

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The very first post documented the manifesto that has been the blog’s guiding creed ever since, a definition of what exactly ‘man repelling’ is. The concept is explained as “outfitting oneself in a sartorially offensive mode that may result in repelling members of the opposite sex” and includes wearing garments such as harem pants, boyfriend jeans, overalls, shoulder pads and jumpsuits. In short, it’s about dressing for one’s self or to impress other women, rather than with an eye to attracting a suitor. A mere six months later the then 21-year-old was featured in The New York Times and since then Medine has been chronicled in stories in Harper’s BazaarELLE and Jezebel. If the fashion blogosphere was a catwalk, Medine would be in its front row.

“I’m surprised by the success, yes, but I think that I’d essentially just identified a social condition permeating the fashion industry that completely predated my existence even,” says Medine. “It probably struck a chord because no one had given a name to a concept that was so obvious when considering fashion – women dress for other women. I just wanted to take that a step further and mention that we dress for ourselves, too.”

Aspiration likely plays a large part in her audience pulling power also as her wardrobe is filled with easy-to-covet labels like Acne, Prada, Christopher Kane, Isabel Marant, Chloé and Balenciaga. Medine’s style is layered, eclectic and unashamedly attention seeking, though she describes it in much more straightforward terms. “I don’t have one particular personal fashion philosophy. I simply wear what makes me feel good.”

And it has been this aesthetic that has transformed what started as a blog into a brand. To name only a few of her commercial collaborations there have been jewellery collections with NYC-based brand Dannijo, velvet and tweed sneakers designed for Superga, beauty sponsorships from NARS and Bumble and Bumble, and a starring role in ad campaign for Uniqlo. In the past Medine has stated that these collaborations bring in 60 per cent of her income, more than she gets from advertising for the site.

The latest addition to the MR empire is Medine’s debut book, simply titled Man Repeller, but with the rather telling sell of ‘Seeking Love. Finding Overalls.’ In it Medine writes a series of biographical essays, each centred on an item of clothing. The book is a slightly more personal affair than the outfit posts on the blog, detailing her life from first kiss to losing her virginity to chasing true love as told through her wardrobe (with some rather funny detours along the way such as the time in Paris she vomited in an ostrich skin clutch handed down from her grandmother as it was the only available receptacle). And yes, it does have a happy ending as to whether the Man Repeller’s sartorial instincts are able to ward off the entire opposite sex. Turns out love can triumph over drop crotch harem pants as Medine is now happily married.

At this point in her still fledgling career Medine is already a power player in the fashion set with the accolades to prove it. Last year Forbes listed her in the Art and Style section of their ‘30 Under 30’, TIME included her in their ’25 Best Blogs’ saying she ‘had the fashion world hooked’, and Adweek placed her at number one in their ‘Fashion Power 25’ (above celebrity trendsetters like Lady Gaga, Michelle Obama and Kate Middleton). When asked if she feels powerful within the industry Medine is modest.

“I think when it’s you getting the accolades, you minimise their importance and existence. From the outside, when I see other people I admire achieve these phenomenal spots, I’m so excited for them but when it’s me, it’s just another reason I have to continue working hard.”

And it doesn’t look like Medine is set to stop working hard to repel (and attract) any time soon. Her interest in pushing the boundaries of style remains as fierce and joyful as ever.  “Nothing is off limits in terms of what I would wear and no, I would hope I do not get sick of fashion. It’s my happy place.”

Man Repeller by Leandra Medine ($24.99, Hachette) is out now.