I was an obsessive Man Repeller fan for years. Here’s why I’m not mourning the fashion site’s demise.

  • Leandra Medine Cohen, the founder and former face of Repeller, announced on October 26 that the influential fashion site had shut down.
  • After public controversy over its lack of diversity and inclusion, the brand made several changes in recent months. In June, Medine Cohen steped back from her operational duties, and in September, the brand changed its name from Man Repeller.
  • When news of the shutdown broke, I started to think back on my own experience with the site. Though I saw it as a vast community of oddballs who valued personal style over conventional fashion trends, its audience was much more monolithic than I thought.
  • It helped shape the writer I am today and my own personal style, but I've also come to understand its problems. Now, as the brand goes dark, I'm not sorry to see it go.
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After a decade of "Sex and the City" references and "arm parties" bracelent stacks, fashion and lifestyle site Repeller is shutting down. 

The brand's founder and former face Leandra Medine Cohen confirmed the shutdown in a statement to The Cut last week, and on Monday, she posted a very brief farewell note on Repeller's website.

The shutdown comes after a summer of intense backlash. After early pandemic layoffs, former employees and community members called out the brand in June, alleging a hostile work environment and a lack of inclusive content.

As a result, Medine Cohen stepped down from her "operational role" in August. In a Substack post, she wrote that she wanted to allow the team to grow Repeller without her "baggage hovering over their heads." On September 9, the company formerly known as Man Repeller announced it would drop the gendered term and go by Repeller.

"We want it to be clear that we're a brand made by and for the full range of odd eggs, banana nut loaves, and curiously spicy sweet potato fries who want to find a community online," the Instagram announcement read. 

When news of the shutdown broke, I began thinking back on my own idolization of the brand. That "full range," I came to realize, was never as wide as it had once seemed. Though I once saw it as a vast community of oddballs who valued personal style over conventional fashion trends, its audience was far more monolithic than that. 

Now, as Repeller quietly disappears into the annals of fashion history, I'm not sorry to see it go.

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I can tell you exactly where I was the very first time I ever heard the words "Man Repeller."

In June 2014, I was standing in the fashion closet of Harper's Bazaar, crammed between a table full of jewelry and a desk with two massive desktop computers. 

I was almost 20, working as an accessories intern with seven other people. That day, the conversation turned to someone's outfit. "Wait, you don't know The Man Repeller?" a fellow intern said. 

At the time, Repeller was largely a personal style blog for its founder, Leandra Medine Cohen. She was — and is — a thin brunette woman who posted photos of herself in outfits that simultaneously broke all the rules of fashion while creating her own. The early Instagram posts featured magazine editorials, shots of Medine Cohen in wonderful clothing, photos of her summertime getaways, and product shots of accessories and shoes.

I was about to start my second year of college, and I was yet another young woman trying to find her way in the world. When I learned about this It girl, I was hooked. 

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Repeller gave me the confidence to wear all the things my mom had been telling me to wear for years. 

I grew up in a small town of mostly Jewish, upper-middle class residents. If you weren't wearing the right thing — Ugg boots, Juicy Couture anything, True Religion jeans — you may as well have been wearing nothing at all. Because of adolescent-induced pressure to fit in, I rejected anything in my closet that the girls who ate lunch at the cool table wouldn't wear. (I loved my knock-off Costco Uggs until I received a withering look from a blonde clad in a Tiffany & Co. necklace.) 

This pressure stretched from fourth grade through my freshman year of college. Enter: Repeller, Medine Cohen, and her community of funkily-dressed acolytes. Here was a person who was praised by the likes of Vogue for living every day like it was crazy sock day.

This was Repeller's founding ethos: Empowering women to dress for themselves rather than men or other women. Benjamin Wallace put it best in a 2014 article for The Cut: "Medine spends all day telling other women not to give a s— what anyone thinks about their outfits." 

I started thinking about each piece of clothing I owned in myriad new ways. Skirts became strapless tops, leggings became appropriate business wear, and jeans became semi-obsolete (for a moment, at least). When it came to what I wore, there was no line too firm to cross.

And as I got older, so did the brand. Repeller ventured into the world of meme-making and moved into new office space in what seemed like the coolest neighborhood in Manhattan. It hired writers, art directors, and photographers who produced blogs and some of the wackiest and most creative original photography my young eyes had ever seen. 

I haven't worn that black skirt around my waist since I was in middle school.
Rachel Askinasi/Insider

It started with the clothes, but it quickly became about much more.

I wanted a community of creative, wacky humans to belong to, and I found that on the pages of Man Repeller. In other words, I drank the wildly flavored Kool-Aid.

Medine Cohen herself became a kind of idol. Here was a woman with whom I thought I had a lot in common: She was a Jewish girl from New York with Middle Eastern roots (check), she kept Shabbat and had two older brothers (check), she talked about everything from Sephardic recipes to growing up as a chubby kid (check). She even talked openly about her miscarriages and her once-rocky relationship with now-husband Abie Cohen. I found myself talking, writing, and living in imitation of her.

But then I watched the world and the fashion industry shift. I noticed Balenciaga and Vetements embrace the ideal of wacky streetwear; I began to work closely with people in the industry who were doing much more interesting and innovative things than Medine Cohen and her community. My narrow view of the fashion world, formed largely by working in white-washed magazine closets, widened with every job I took and every new person I followed on Instagram.

Eventually, I began to change, too. I found myself mimicking the style of former Repeller employee Crystal Anderson rather than Medine Cohen. My feeds and saved folders filled with images from editors and stylists like GQ deputy fashion director Nikki Ogunnaike, "Insecure" costume designer Shiona Turini, and supermodel Ashley Graham.

My style still has hints of what I learned from following Medine Cohen, but she's no longer my only muse.
Rachel Askinasi/Insider

During the first four-ish years of my twenties, I used Repeller as a crutch. It let me believe I was sprinting ahead, while everyone else lagged behind in their uniform of all black and occasional blue jeans. 

In my mind, Repeller was always five steps ahead. But that was never really true. It was ahead of people like me, but influencers, magazines, and people outside of my tiny homogeneous bubble had been there for ages.

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The brand failed to open its eyes and make the necessary changes, and its demise is a fitting conclusion.

As editors and influencers demanded change within the fashion industry — Chrissy Rutherford and Danielle Prescod started 2BG Consulting to help brands push past performative allyship and become more inclusive, and Lindsay Peoples Wagner and Sandrine Charles launched the Black in Fashion Council — former employees started speaking up about the exclusive nature of the Repeller community.

In response to several open letters from Medine Cohen about the Black Lives Matter movement and the site's plans to increase diversity in its employee ranks and content, former employees criticized the lack of past action.

"As a former POC employee that was let go during COVID-19, this 'apology' is a slap in the face and honestly disgraceful," wrote a former employee named Sabrina. (Insider later confirmed it was Sabrina Santiago, a former photographer and photo editor for the site, though she wasn't able to comment further.)

I'm ashamed that it took me so long to wake up to Repeller's problems, and my heart breaks for everyone who lost their jobs as a result of the site's failures and subsequent shutdown. But I won't be mourning the brand. It's time for it to go.

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