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It is a truth universally acknowledged that, when a bright young woman launches a playful fashion blog that garners five million followers, she must be in want of a book contract. And she was. Now Leandra Medine, voted by Fashionista.com the top fashion blogger on the Web, has parlayed her Man Repeller blog into a new book, “Man Repeller: Seeking Love. Finding Overalls” (Grand Central Publishing).
Scheduled for release on Sept. 10, the book has the same funny, snarky tone as the Web site, and takes the form of a series of essays about Medine’s life, from childhood through high school, college at The New School — during which she launched Man Repeller in April 2010 — her blog’s success and her wedding. She fills her readers in on the extremely important role that clothes have played in her life thus far, naming the chapters after particular items of clothing, among them a pair of drop-crotch, M.C. Hammer-esque harem pants that, surprisingly, attracted two men with whom she had serious romances, one of whom became her husband. She describes wanting to dress like the Spice Girls as a child — something her mother forbade. She recalls having to wear long skirts and long-sleeve tops to Ramaz, her modern orthodox Jewish high school. She writes about being thrown out of her great-grandmother’s hospital room after turning up there in ripped jeans shorts.
In the book, Medine, who is 24, also reveals how she and a friend defined the term Man Repeller during a trip to Topshop, when her friend noticed that all the fashion items that Leandra found appealing there (Tencel harem shorts; a white muscle T that read “Mom;” a floral-print denim vest) were guaranteed to repel men. Medine writes, “She continued, ‘How can you possibly like those shorts? You’re a man repeller, a bona fide man repeller.’ She said it so matter-of-factly — like it was ridiculous that I could have possibly suggested my love life was a failure for any other reason; like the answer was so natural and I was being naïve. We had dabbled with the notion of man repelling — that women so invested in their sartorial conquests are bound for a life of little companionship but many shoes.…But it had never hit so close to home.”
They wrote up a dictionary definition: “man re.pell.er [mahn-ree-peller] —noun: outfitting oneself in a sartorially offensive way that will result in repelling members of the opposite sex. Such garments include but are not limited to harem pants, boyfriend jeans, overalls (see: human repelling), shoulder pads, full-length jumpsuits, jewelry that resembles violent weaponry and clogs.”
Medine’s apartment in the East Village is filled with intriguing items, including panoramic photos of places in New York City, which her husband, UBS executive Abie Cohen, bought on the street; a figure of Karl Lagerfeld with his cat, Choupette; a doll that looks like a shirtless Marc Jacobs on steroids; a few wedding pictures; some empty silver picture frames, and plenty of skull-shaped artifacts. A woman dressed in a maid’s uniform is cleaning the apartment, which is already immaculate.
At WWD’s request, Medine changes clothes three times during an interview. The starring items include an Isabel Marant top; an Acne jacket, and a Simone Rocha eyelet dress. But she isn’t wearing any makeup, because she doesn’t need any. Five foot eight and a size zero, she wears clothes with great aplomb.
The writer is as quick-witted and outspoken in person as she is on the Web and on paper. Asked whether her husband was taken aback when he learned that she details losing her virginity to him in the book, she says no. He already knew what he was getting into when he married her, she explains, adding, “I’m an 87 percent extrovert on the Myers-Briggs [personality test] scale.” Medine says that rather than giving Cohen (whose grandfather was a founder of the New York drugstore chain Duane Reade) flak about being married to the Man Repeller, his banker colleagues — who are “violently straight” — are fascinated by her because she knows members of a group they’re very interested in: models. Of a Jewish man she dated whom she broke up with because he couldn’t understand why she couldn’t travel with him or take a bite of his chicken Parmesan, she says, “It would have been different if he had been more respectful.”
Making the decision to marry early — and to marry her first love — was a bit difficult for her. But then, she writes, “I realized that if I were a 23-year-old girl getting married and I wasn’t struggling with it, that would likely mean that something was either massively wrong with me or that my brain is made up of delicately wrapped almonds that serve perfectly as party favors.”
“People often ask me if my parents helped me,” Medine says, adding, “My mother did lend me $10 to register the domain name.” Asked about her friends’ response to her success, she says, “My new friends are very complimentary. My old friends don’t really acknowledge it.” She has three brothers and has dinner with her parents every Friday night. Her favorite sibling, her older brother Haim, has just launched his own jewelry line, Khai Khai, and she is helping him with it.
Medine is frequently asked for advice by aspiring bloggers, and says she always tells them not to quit their day jobs. She says that she hasn’t had any blowback from readers for putting ads on her blog, since they’re all “clearly marked as such,” as are advertorials. Her father, a jewelry designer and jewelry company executive, told her to hire people who are good at things she’s not good at. She now has two people who work for her and is adding a third one this month. She has been able to make a good living from blogging partly through styling gigs for such events as “Fashion’s Night Out” and design collaborations. She has designed clothes for PJK and Gryphon; created shoes for Del Toro and sneakers for Superga, and designed jewelry for Dannijo.
Medine’s grandfather was her first relative to read the “Man Repeller” book, and his response was that it was “OK for a first book,” she says. Her father began reading it, but was put off by a couple of racy incidents early on. Her mother’s reaction was enthusiastic.
“I have always, always loved words,” says Medine, who studied journalism in college. “Nothing feels better than constructing a beautiful sentence.”
But writing the book was more difficult than she expected, and some chapters had to be rewritten several times. “I felt bad that I couldn’t articulate what I thought,” she says.
The Canadian Tuxedo chapter, in particular, went back and forth quite a few times. (For the uninitiated, a Canadian Tuxedo is an all-denim outfit.)
Medine notes that she was recently talking with a friend about tattoos, which she’s definitely not in favor of. “We decided that tattoos are literally a cry for help,” she says. “We wanted to say, “I wish I had been around to help before you decided to yell using your body.’”