Ever since she exploded onto the fashion-blog scene in May 2010 with The Man Repeller—a seamless blend of style reporting, personal reflections, and social commentary, all infused with the writer’s idiosyncratic wit—Leandra Medine has made a name for herself as the quirkiest critic on the front row. (“The Man Repeller” refers to the fashion-loving woman who gravitates toward outré clothing, even if it makes its wearer unattractive to the opposite sex.) Gearing up for the publication of her first book, Man Repeller: Seeking Love, Finding Overalls(Grand Central), today, the 24-year-old New York City native sat down with us to discuss writing, Fashion Week, and finding her voice—more Kanye West than Drake, as it turns out—as a blogger.
VF Daily: Congratulations on finishing your first book. After blogging daily for the last three years, what was it like to write a full-length memoir?
Leandra Medine: Thank you. I’m so nervous about the reception. When you’re writing a blog post, you can take solace in knowing that you will immediately know how people will respond to it, and if the criticism is bad, then that’s fine because you can work on that and fix it, and if it’s good, then that’s great because you know what to do in the future. It gets pushed down so quickly. With a book, it’s just out there forever. People can love it or they can hate it, but either way there’s a lot more attachment to it. I feel married to my book, whereas I’m in these perpetual one-night stands with my blog posts.
What inspired you to start the project?
I always grew up with the idea that in order to be a successful writer, I should have a book published. Sloane Crosley and David Sedaris are two of my favorite writers; they’re the kind of writers who make you feel like “I can do this. I want to do this.” And so that was my inspiration. My first foray into writing had a lot to do with Joan Didion. My “burning bush” moment was when I saw her uptown once. Slouching Towards Bethlehem is the sort of writing I always wanted to do.
You reveal a lot of personal details in the book—perhaps even more so than on The Man Repeller.
People always ask me how I muster the strength to be so open about things, and I explain to them that I took the Myers-Briggs test, like, four times, and every single time, I ranked an 87 percent extrovert, so it would probably take more strength for me to shut up.
Your blog has evolved to include more about its author as opposed to just pure fashion reporting and commentary, though. Has that been intentional?
When I started Man Repeller, I never intended for it to be a personal style blog about me. I thought I was pinpointing or locating a pre-existing social condition and just giving it a name—not necessarily dubbing myself the name. That just happened naturally. In the early days of the blog, I noticed that every time I would post even an image of my feet in different shoes, or a picture of myself on the site, those stories gained so much more traction and page views. I realized if I wanted T.M.R. to be something, I’d probably have to include a little bit more of myself.
Whom do you envision as your target reader?
I would hope that I’m speaking to girls who are like me—girls who are interested in and care about fashion but are also obsessed with becoming smarter. Even though people will look at several of my blog posts and be like, “Why are we talking about this current event instead of hem lengths?” I’ll be like, “You’re going to go on a date tonight and have something to say about one of the Tsarnaev brothers, and then you’re going to wake up tomorrow morning and say, ‘Thanks, Man Repeller.’”
You’re obviously passionate and knowledgeable about the designers you cover, but at the same time your blog doesn’t seem to take it all too seriously.
Man Repeller is a humorous Web site for serious fashion. That’s what we call it. I would also hope that on a grander scale, it’s a testament to life in New York. That’s where the cronut stuff and “Rat in the Hat” [an advice column] and all those very New York–centric posts come in.
What is a typical day in your life?
It’s so uninteresting.
I don’t believe that.
No, it is. I wake up around 7:30, make myself a coffee. Actually, I’ve started going out for coffee—I’ve realized it’s very good for my mental health to get out. And then I’ll get to my computer around 8 or 8:30, set live the first blog post, and then from 9 until 1:30 I’m either working on the second blog post or the next day’s blog post or doing market research for whatever it is. I’m really lucky because scouring Net-a-Porter is “market research.” It’s really fun. Sometimes it’s expensive, but it’s really fun. Sale sites, Yoox, the OutNet. It’s really fun that that is my market work.
So I’m essentially doing that until around 2 p.m., and then I set live the second post. It’s always two a day. That’s a new thing; it’s been that way for about two months, ever since the Man Repeller assistant came on full-time.
And then it’s the same thing from, like, 3 until 6:30 or 7. I’m either working on the next day’s post or the following day’s post or the editorial calendar. And then I usually go out for dinner and have so much wine.
Do you see yourself expanding the brand beyond this book?
I would love to write more books. You learn so much from working on a book that the second one would be so fundamentally different from the first. Because I’m married now, and the trials and tribulations of getting married at 23 are behind me, and now it’s just “O.K., the overalls are found. What have I lost?”
Fashion Week is upon us; what kind of coverage do you typically run?
I tend to do round-ups, but for the last two or three seasons, because my mind is just functioning differently now, I’ve been trying to do more of the think-essay things. My couture recap was: Couture is supposed to harbor the last true inkling of the indie spirit because it’s so fantastical and removed from what you want to wear. It’s not about consumerism. And yet this year, Margiela sent jeans down the runway, and everything that Raf Simons did was wearable. Armani Privé is making these nude pantsuits that you could get from the ready-to-wear collection. That was a really enjoyable piece for me to write, because it delved into the business of fashion. I would like to do a little more of that thinking stuff. [New York Times writer] Cathy Horyn is obviously the paladin of fashion critics, isn’t she?
Do you ever find that the posts you are less proud of become a huge success and the ones you love fall flat?
In the last month, there are probably three stories I’ve been super passionate about and really loved: cronuts; a tribute to Michael Jackson. But I don’t know how well they resonated with readers. That said, I think my readership has evolved with me, maybe in the way Miley Cyrus’s fans are growing up with her. Stacy London [the fashion consultant and a co-host of TLC’s What Not to Wear] actually said something really interesting to me. She’s a fan of the Web site, which is really cool to me. I ran into her on the street once, and [she] said she was so impressed by the headier and smarter thought pieces I’d been doing, and I said I appreciated that, that I felt like my readers wanted me to shut up and just show them pictures. She was like, “Don’t dumb down for them. You are setting the trends. You need them to rise to your level.”
But then again, it’s, like, the difference between Kanye West and Drake. Drake is a low-common-denominator rapper, and Kanye West is a little bit more esoteric. Or the difference between kale and chocolate. If you’re hungry, you’re going for the chocolate, even though you know the kale is better for you.
How long do you think you’ll keep up the site?
I hope forever. I hope that it keeps evolving with me and takes on a different identity every time I want it to. And every time the readers want it to. The people who are running blogs now that are of note—Into the Gloss, SousStyle—they’re not just going to fall off. This is going to become the norm; we’re not going to be on the outskirts of fashion 10 years from now.