At the three shows she attended during last September’s New York Fashion Week, a then-21-year-old New Yorker named Leandra Medine was, for the most part, an innocent bystander. A year and 10,000 Twitter followers later, Medine–now better known as the Man Repeller, after her blog by the same name–will be shoulder pads-deep in the action. During the last nine months, blogging from her parents’ apartment on the Upper East Side, Medine has staked out a spot in the fashion world as head cheerleader for style choices that offend delicate sensibilities of the opposite sex–which she has dubbed “sartorial contraceptives.” The more fashion-forward the look, the theory goes, the more sexually unappealing it tends to be.
As she prepped for this season’s Fashion Week–otherwise known as the Man-Repelling Olympics–Medine spoke to The Observer about fan mail, Shabbat and going “full-out jeg.”
You’ve spent your whole life in New York. Ever think about living somewhere else?
I was abroad in Paris and I absolutely loved it. I had the best five months of my life. And I visited a ton of cities–I went to Stockholm, I went to Spain, I went all over. But the only place in Europe where I was, like, Wow, I could see myself living here and being happy, was London. I would move to London if I had to.
How do you compare Paris to New York through the lens of man repelling?
The entire concept manifested itself while I was in Paris–that’s where I really realized I was a man repeller. Like, in the middle of Fashion Week, we’re leaving one of the after parties and I’m with two of my friends and we’re looking for a cab and it’s impossible to find a cab late at night in Paris. And I look at myself and I’m like, “I’m wearing high-waisted denim cutoffs with ruffles on the bottom and a shoulder-padded shirt that would put Pierre Balmain to shame. What is wrong with me?” I think I took a lot more creative license with the way I dressed over there–I think anyone does that when they’re not in their own hometown. I wasn’t afraid to run into people that I knew.
Do you ever wake up and think, “I just want to be conventionally sexy for today?”
Not really. You know what the thing is? It’s not that I necessarily want to man-repel, but I stray away from being generic. To me, adding layers and not looking like a mannequin turns out to repel men because it’s not easily comprehensible.
You must occasionally find yourself in a situation where you have to dress conventionally.
Well, I mean, this past Saturday night I had a wedding at the Plaza, so I wore a silk Peter Som skirt and a plain white tank, an open-backed tank. A ton of girls I didn’t know rushed over to me and they were like, “You’re not man repelling! Oh my god! Is that a man next to you? What’s going on?” I’m like, “Relax, that’s my brother, number one. Number two, we’re at The Plaza.”
Is there anything that you see girls wearing all the time that you just wish would go away?
I mean, a lot of fashion I wish would just go away, although I don’t take it so offensively. Like, I don’t have clogs, I’ve never bought clogs, I never really gave into the clogs. But I never hated it so much that I wanted it to go away. I don’t know, I try to see the positive motive behind every trend. I think Crocs are insulting. I think it’s offensive when people wear Crocs and Snuggies, but those aren’t really trends.
What’s your position on jeggings?
I like the name. I own a few pairs, but I think they suck. I think they’re so stupid. Just buy a jean with a little spandex in them, you don’t need to go full-out jeg.
And leggings as pants?
I guess that’s a trend that I wish would go away. You know, it was cool for a minute in, like, 2008, but then it became–it looks like you forgot to get dressed on the bottom. It’s like going out unfinished. I do hate that trend, actually. I hate it so much, especially now, because tailored trousers are so in. Leggings are just so off from what chic could be, or is.
Turning the tables a little bit, what lady-repelling looks have men adopted?
People keep telling me that I should start a Woman Repeller, but dissecting men’s fashion is just not as interesting. There aren’t very many men’s fashion blogs, and there’s a reason for that. But I would say that that I hate sneakers with formal wear, square-toed shoes, athletic socks with dress shoes, ill-fitting jeans, boxy jean jackets. I don’t like cowboy boots on men, I hate short-sleeved button-ups.
What celebrity is most your type?
He’s so cute.
Do you ever get any creepy e-mails from guys who’ve seen your site?
Yes! Yes, I do. I actually just got a funny one from this guy in Canada. He was like, “I think you’re super beautiful and even though you’re a man repeller, I wanna date you.” I answer all my e-mails, so I just replied, “That’s really flattering.” And so he wrote back, “It seems like you’re interested, so let me tell you about myself. I’m a 29-year old aspiring teacher living at home with my parents in Toronto.” I was like, all right!