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The Man Repeller Reflects on Fashion Week

Chatting with fashion icon Leandra Medine

Stephanie Butnick
February 23, 2011
The Man Repeller, a.k.a. Leandra Medine.(Man Repeller)
The Man Repeller, a.k.a. Leandra Medine.(Man Repeller)

Leandra Medine is pretty much my hero. The 21-year-old Ramaz alum and fashion blogger has transformed the age-old tradition of repelling men into an art form, chronicling (and wearing) fashion-forward duds that tend to utterly perplex the opposite sex. “Sartorial contraceptives,” she calls her clothes.

Winner of this year’s “most original blog” at the Bloglovin’ Awards, a sudden Fashion Week staple, and (naturally) a Times profile subject, Medine has helped make harem pants, top knots, and shoulder pads empowering statements for young women (“I’m so man repelling right now,” my friends say proudly, piling on the flannel). Still, she downplays her popularity, insisting she’s just a nice Jewish girl who lives with her parents and looks forward to Shabbat dinners. Revamping the age-old Jewish woman’s adage of ‘Put your jewelry on, and then put on one more piece,’ Medine is a bold, bedazzled addition to the fashion blogging world, and we embrace her as one of our own. (Turban enthusiasts, duh.) Which meant I had to interview her.

How does it feel going from being a Fashion Week bystander to an in-demand presence—guest-blogging for Shopbop and The Cut?
I wouldn’t say that I’ve graduated to “in demand” but it definitely feels good to be assigned proper seats at shows! Fashion Week is a great opportunity to make unimportant people feel like they own the world.

You attended Ramaz growing up, where you wore a school uniform. How did you develop your own individual look while staying in uniform?
It was definitely hard. Bright colors were frowned upon and the mandatory silhouettes tainted my creativity. I relied on shoes and jewelry to differentiate myself.

I’ve read that your family has Shabbat dinner together on Friday nights. What’s your at-home style like?
Not that different than my at-Fashion Week style. Vivenne Westwood once said, “People who wear impressive clothes live better lives,” and it really stayed with me. Ultimately what I’m trying to say is, even when I’m doubling as Shabbat malka, I’m still wearing a turban.

What is your ideal temple look? It’s a difficult place for experimental style—any good man repelling trends you’ve noticed in synagogue?
Well, maxi skirts for one thing. Otherwise, I usually wear a very thick tight and stick to my short skirts and dresses. The key is a mad dash for the door before the rabbi can see you.

With more than 12,000 Twitter followers, you’ve clearly developed a serious fan base, and in the process you’ve become something of an icon for unconventional, fashion-forward style. What’s it like to be recognized when you’re out or to be approached by strangers?
Humbling, plain and simple. This sort of circles back to my being adamant about Shabbat dinners. Without getting too spiritual, God has done so much for me; the least I can do is drink Kiddush wine on a Friday night. It’s probably my favorite activity anyway.

Re: The recognition, I couldn’t have imagined this would happen, ever. And it’s still so funny to me that of all the things I could become notorious for, man repelling is it. I just hope I haven’t actually pigeon-holed myself into perpetual singleness. Girlfriends got some pru urvu to do!

I have to ask: Any favorite Jewish Man Repellers, Biblical or otherwise?
Could Yosef be considered a Man Repeller even though he’s a man? I’d love to get my hands on that techni-colored dream coat! Feels very Matthew Williamson to me.

I can’t believe I just compared Yosef to Matthew Williamson.

Stephanie Butnick is chief strategy officer of Tablet Magazine, co-founder of Tablet Studios, and a host of the Unorthodox podcast.