For Leandra Medine Cohen’s 644,000 (and counting) Instagram followers, it was a familiar scene: a circular mirror, midcentury-modern console and red wallpaper festooned with elephants and palm trees. But for FN’s recent cover shoot, it was flipped and reversed.
It’s the spot where Cohen takes many of her frequent selfies, in the reflection of the mirror. Her position as of late has her left leg up, pigeonlike, foot resting keenly on the table. “I’m always concerned about getting the shoe in the shot; I don’t feel like it’s complete without it,” she said.
Cohen has a good reason to be more concerned with showing her shoes via selfie recently: Last month, she debuted her latest collection of MR by Man Repeller shoes, this time as a five-piece capsule with the newly launched luxury site MarthaLouisa.com. In the days leading up to the debut, she displayed her creations on the model who can sell them best: herself.
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Ladylike turquoise ankle-strap sandals with lobsters embroidered on the heel were matched with stacks of colorful bracelets, white leather flat wrap sandals dotted with dainty red rosettes were worn in her bedroom with a nightgown, and neutral raffia loafers were paired with unshaven legs — the ultimate #nofilter.
In creating Man Repeller’s ethos of dressing unapologetically for oneself, Cohen has perfected a formula for selling fashion on the site — and on her personal Instagram account. So it comes as something of a surprise to learn that the blogger-turned-entrepreneur-turned-shoe designer is pivoting her footwear line away from the brand, changing the name from MR by Man Repeller to Leandra Medine.
“Man Repeller is a great name, but it doesn’t really work in the context of expensive shoes. And I think about it from my own perspective. Would I want to spend $500 on a pair of shoes branded Man Repeller when I’m on Net-a-Porter or at Barneys, among Isabel Marant and other brands that are charging those prices?” Cohen asked. “There is absolutely an appetite for product within the realm of Man Repeller — something that my team is exploring — but [it] should be universally inclusive and not cost-prohibitive.”
The name change will debut with Cohen’s 14-piece fall ’18 collection, which retails starting in July and August at Barneys New York and The Webster in the U.S., worldwide at Hudson’s Bay, Le Bon Marché, Harvey Nichols and La Rinascente. And MarthaLouisa.com will carry the line following the spring capsule. “We love her style and her approach, and this was the perfect opportunity for an exclusive collaboration,” said MarthaLouisa.com co-founder Susanne Botschen, adding that she doesn’t expect the brand name change to affect sales. “People love to identify with her; they want to participate in her coolness. And she is well-known by her name — maybe this will even give it a push.”
Cohen said she will continue to work with her licensing partner, Six London, the production agency that approached her in 2015 and helped her to launch with Net-a-Porter. (Manufacturing is based in Portugal, and materials are sourced in Italy.)
Looking at Cohen’s first collection, launched in October 2016 with styles named “I’m Here to Party” and “Lol if You Think I’m Walking,” it’s easy to see her evolution from party platforms to a more grown-up shoe in the past few years. “I tend to like a very refined shoe, for as outlandish as my style and taste can be,” Cohen said. Though the fall ’18 collection is still in final production, confirmed styles include open-toe ruffle mules with a kitten heel and velvet houndstooth clogs.
The shift in her style is only slight, and Cohen still regularly touts her signature off-the-cuff mix of quirky clothes with piles of accessories. But with two very important new accessories — her now 10-week-old daughters, Laura and Madeline — it’s clear that Cohen is growing up and shifting her content accordingly. The influencer has already peppered her social media feed with highly anticipated images of the girls, offering tidbits on Instagram Stories about swollen ankles and postpartum diapers.
“I wasn’t open because I felt like it would be good for my brand; it’s just who I am and how I am,” Cohen said. “To the extent that I think something will be shared, I will share it. But I also don’t want to be in the business of showing off. I remember how heartbroken I would find myself when I saw other women pregnant on Instagram,” she explained, referring to an op-ed she wrote on Beyoncé’s public pregnancy announcement in 2017, a post that received backlash.
“I never wanted to be the reason that someone was hurt scrolling through their feed. And I’m also still unsure whether I’m comfortable having photos of them appear anywhere, which is ironic because we just shot a magazine cover. I’m dealing with a lot of personal conflict of whether it’s appropriate, that my tendency and comfort level in sharing does not necessarily mirror theirs, and how much privacy I should be giving them.”
For now, the babies remain a part of Cohen’s social feed, but don’t expect a lot of mini #OOTDs: “People are assuming that I’m super-excited about dressing them. I kind of don’t care, I just want them to be comfortable,” she said. “Plus, their feet are still too small [for shoes].”