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!
You’re like, “I’m moving out there immediately.”
Yeah, right. And sometimes I get e-mails from men saying, “How could you do this to my girlfriend?” That’s also funny. One guy even proposed to me via Twitter.
So are you dating anyone?
I don’t comment on my relationship status vis à vis the blog.
Do you think of Man Repeller in political terms at all?
I didn’t neccesarily aim for the blog to make any sort of feministic statement, but I did want it to serve as an open forum for women to draw their own conclusions, whether it be something as simple as “This is what I want to wear tomorrow” or a more complex millennial statement about women, fashion, men and feminism.
What’s the garment that you think men hate the most?
I think that the harem pant is particularly offensive. That has to be the worst, because pants are usually a really good way to show a woman’s silhouette. If she has really nice legs, you can see them in her pants. That alone annoys a man, because he’d rather see her in a short skirt, and so for the pants to be harem-style–with a crotch so low that, from the back it looks like she’s wearing a dirty diaper and from the front you’re like, “Is she wearing a long skirt or is she wearing pants?”—it kind of confuses them. And it makes her look 15 pounds heavier.
On the other hand, is there anything that seems man repelling that you think they secretly like?
I thought that red lipstick was a definite man repeller, and though men say that it gives off this bitchy, unkissable vibe, it’s really sexy to see. So that was interesting for me.
You’re 22. What’s your typical weekend like?
I don’t go out that much. My family’s Jewish, so I do Shabbat dinner with my family on Friday nights. Saturday night I’ll go out–I’m a big fan of the Jane. I’m not a club-goer, although I do like to dance. But definitely more of a go-to-the-bar, have-a-drink, go-home type of girl. I haven’t lived with my parents all this time. I had an apartment the first two years of college, and my friends used to make fun of me. They were like, “Why do you have this self-inflicted two a.m. curfew? No one is telling you to be home by two.” And I’d be like, “Guys it’s getting late, I have to go home, I have to go home.” Because nothing is worse than a hungover Sunday when you have so much stuff to do.
What’s your go-to drink?
Always a tequila with lime juice. Gets you drunk really fast.
So you live on the Upper East Side—not exactly a hotbed of man-repelling outfits. What neighborhoods do you frequent for inspiration?
I was at The Smile yesterday for brunch and I was like, “This is where man repeller meets hipster meets ‘I shouldn’t hang out anywhere else.’” So I would say, that exact spot. I think it’s on Bond between Lafayette and Mulberry? Something like that. Because of that restaurant, The Smile–and it’s right next door to Oak–I feel like that neighborhood has a really high concentration of super stylish, unique-personal-style girls. It’s beautiful.
What about Bedford Ave. in Williamsburg?
I guess I’m not that familiar with it, because I don’t venture to Brooklyn that often, even though every time I go I’m like, I have to hang out here more often. But from what I’ve gathered, it’s not that different from Lower East Side fashion, which is sort of what I try to incorporate into my look. Because even though I live uptown, it always annoys me when people are like, “Oh, you’re not a hipster, you’re not supposed to be dressing like that.” I’m like, “It’s my life, I can dress however I want, ‘k?”
You’ve got one semester left at the New School. Has it been hard to keep up with classes?
Yeah, last semester, especially toward the end, I felt like I was hanging on by such a loose thread. I literally did enough to get by, and that’s it, you know? I’m so nervous that I’m not going to graduate on time, and I only have one semester left, so it’s totally outrageous if I can’t. I just have to finish my senior thesis and then I’m done, but I do have to remind myself that my education comes before the blog.
What are your plans for Fashion Week?
I was invited to be on this Teen Vogue blogger panel in Vegas that’s smack in the middle of Fashion Week. And I spoke to a few of my friends who are immersed in the industry, and every single one of them was like, “You cannot go to Vegas for this panel. This is a huge Fashion Week for you.” I’ve already been receiving some Save the Dates and such, so I’m going to stay. But I mean, I’ve realized Fashion Weeks are like the two weeks out of every year when Style.com gets a million page views and my blog has like, no hits. Last year, I was like, “Oh my god, no! People are sick of the Man Repeller!”
They’ll come back.
Hope so. Also, I forgot to mention–I’m styling a friend of mine‘s Fashion Week presentation. So that’s probably going to be the highlight of my week.