We are gathered here today to mourn the final hours of Man Repeller’s pop up shop (turned-yoga-studio-turned-library-turned-ladies-home-base). Stationed in the back of China Town’s Canal Street Market, the MR Bazaar bears little resemblance to the rows of neat, minimalistic, designer-run stalls that make up the remainder of the venue. In fact, there is nothing particularly minimalist about the bazaar at all.
The space feels something like a kitschy open-air fruit market, with striped cloth awnings hanging over wooden stalls crammed with MR merch and bunches of plastic fruit. The collection of patterned cushions on the couch certainly don’t match the busy antique carpets. The neon “Man Repeller” sign is set against a mural painted by Alex Proba, and the Housing Works-curated library is organized by color, offering only texts featuring female protagonists. And best of all, a series of neon boobs by Name Glo, commissioned exclusively for the pop up, are on display in the shop--with all proceeds going to Planned Parenthood.
But beyond teaching us a few things about how to re-embrace color (all black is so 2016), how to mismatch in just the right way, and how to accept the fact that fruit is probably the new floral, the MR space offered a few other essential lessons. Man Repeller, founded by fashion blogger Leandra Medine in 2010, has become a cult-favorite site for women’s lifestyle content, touching on everything from Emma Watson’s beauty routines to the best ways to approach writing a cold email. But perhaps more intriguing than the features themselves are the site’s comment boards. While the masses of anonymous online commenters on most digital platforms are notoriously cruel and unforgiving, MR’s lively comment boards are typically filled with respectful discussions, active communication, and even polite, engaging disagreement. In short, Man Repeller has found a way to foster a thriving community, born simply out of great web content.
So what happens when you give a physical space to that brand of community? Very good things. The events hosted in the space ranged from morning pilates classes and wine-centric painting workshops, to discussion panels on woman-powered entrepreneurship. The shop’s final event, a “girls night in,” was open exclusively to the throngs of New York women who have attended Man Repeller events in the past (a pretty sizable, dedicated collective). In addition to snacks and Paint Box manicures, the women who attended got a sense of the tangible reality to the MR community--the space served as a much-needed reminder that the remarkable conversation that takes place on the site is born from actual living, breathing women.
And while “girls night in” was invite-only, the space, for the past four weeks, has been completely free and open to the public. Women have come to sit and talk over coffee on one of the spot’s multiple plush couches, to read books from the library, or to chat with MR writers while they wait for their phones to charge at the spot’s charging station. They’ve come to purchase pairs of neon boobs, to do some morning stretches, and simply to exist within the same four walls as women they have been connecting with for months--sometimes even years. There is a power to cultivating a community like Man Repeller’s online, but it is a different thing entirely when it exists in three dimensions.