The New York vs. L.A. debate will likely never die. At least according to Leandra Medine, aka The Man Repeller and, quite likely, the biggest blogger currently in the space. If her 293,000 Instagram followers, September 2013 book debut or CAA representation doesn't convey it, then perhaps the gaggle of turban-clad fans who swarmed her like a rock star during her PJK collaboration launch at Neiman Marcus in Beverly Hills last night, will.
"It's always New York versus the world," the noted blogger mused to THR while nibbling on a Chinese chicken salad at Neiman Marcus' cafe. She was in town to host a meet-and-greet for her recently-released line with L.A.-based contemporary label PJK. Not that Medine is a stranger to clothing collaborations — she counts a trenchcoat for Gryphon, jewelry for Danijo and slippers for Del Toro among her many design credits, thus far.
"Oh yeah, I'm a collaboration veteran," the 25-year-old former Valentino intern said between bites of glass noodles. "But this is my first complete line." The ambitious, 46-piece offering melds Medine's signature playful whimsy with the sophisticated foundations for which she's known — think a gold metallic pencil skirt with a ruffled, flared hem ($278), fitted high-waist silk shorts with a Palm Springs-appropriate floral motif ($188) and an off-the-shoulder ruffled blouse ($198) that any member of her fan base could easily customize as tame or wild as they pleased, based on whatever its designer provides as inspiration on Instagram that day.
The visit marked Medine's third L.A. jaunt ever, which didn't leave her much to go on as far as the city's fashion is concerned.
"My experience is pretty insular. I only see what's previewed at The Chateau," she said. "But the style in L.A. doesn't feel that different to me than in New York."
One thing she did notice? A surplus of Birkin bags swinging from shoppers' arms in Beverly Hills.
"I don't see a lot of Birkins in New York," she said. "Style is more inconspicuous there." The saturation of $10,000 handbags led Medine to believe that Left Coast shopping would carry the same flash.
"I always compare the store buys from New York to wherever I am. So I was thinking about Jeffery when I was at Maxfield," she said of the downtown New York boutique that carries the likes of Margiela, Rick Owens and Givenchy — similar to the merchandise mix and hipper-than-thou vibe at West Hollywood's Maxfield. "I was expecting a lot of color or something. But the buys are pretty similar. Maxfield maybe has more dresses."
Trays of champagne began being passed on Neiman Marcus's third floor as a DJ began to spin. And Medine's accessory-heavy revelers (one of whom was Hollywood stylist Joey Tierney, who has worked with Jaime Pressly and Rose Byrne) got restless before she could finish her snack.
"I want you to meet one of your biggest fans. She just bought two shirts," said PJK founder and creative director Chelsea Santry, walking into the cafe to take the Man Repeller to her adoring public. Though their collaboration came to be in the most standard of ways — the duo was introduced by a mutual business associate, got along and signed a contract — Santry broke down the real reason why their venture got off the ground.
"She said she wanted to make a T-shirt with a unicorn on it, and I said lets do this."
Medine signed T-shirts while a steady stream of shoppers filled the third floor. After the event, she would head to Maxfield for a Dior event celebrating the debut of Raf Simons' ready-to-wear collection.
"I seriously love you," said one of Medine's fans, who was wearing a denim vest, bright orange lips and a few small bangles somewhat similar to Medine's own "arm party," the phrase she coined for "bracelet stack." The two hugged.
Just then, two shoppers exited the escalator, eyes wide with confusion as if they'd arrived in a different dimension. They glanced at each other, snagged some free champagne and walked away from the commotion.
Coincidentally, one was carrying a Birkin.