In case you missed it, there was a party in New York City this weekend — a dinosaur-themed sleepover packed full with activity and swag bags, that is. The host? None other than the ultimate city guides themselves, the Man Repeller team.
Before you assume this activation was another opportunity for Instagram bombardment, think again. The design-savvy team had one major focus in mind while planning the weekend-long experience: authentic fun. Man Repeller's takeover at at the Freehand Hotel was an incredibly thoughtful execution, tailored specially for the website's most avid readers. On a one-to-ten whimsical scale, this hit an 11, complete with a contemporary violinist and dinosaur donuts.
In the past, the MR team hosted several IRL experiences, where friendships formed thanks to an unlikely opportunity to connect. These newly-created bonds led to the inspiration behind Hotel Man Repeller — a chance to bring individuals together under the company's specially-made NYC umbrella (literally and figuratively). At the pop-up hotel, team MR introduced guests to a new perspective of city life and new acquaintances. Here lies perhaps the most genuine motivation among brand-activations: Man Repeller's hopes to foster bonds that extend beyond a well-curated experience.
"That's what this weekend is all about," reaffirms founder Leandra Medine in Hotel Man Repeller's welcome letter. "Serving you a New York that bewilders you. Not one that is archetypical, similar to a version you fell in love with on TV or in the movies, or even when you last visited. Our goal is to turn your perception upside down, to delight and surprise and, of course, to have an absurdly fun time while doing it."
Matt Little, head of operations at MR, was one of the key masterminds behind planning and executing the entire weekend. When we asked Little how the partnership came to fruition, he explained, "Freehand Hotel is built around fostering community, which is exactly what we wanted to do with this project. The hotel welcomes people from all perspectives and walks of life, striving to make connections among individuals who might not meet otherwise. There's a lot of overlap of intention there." Little also explained that the Freehand team was already familiar with the Man Repeller brand. As a result of this organic partnership, the experience offered a decoding of New York City in a setting that represents everything Man Repeller is about — character, quirkiness, discovery, and good-time feels.
So, what did the hotel takeover actually look like? That's where Dasha Faires, the event's creative director stepped in. "We started the creative process by talking about the psychology behind the project. Creating a logo gave the project its own brand identity, and from there, we built out the rest of the visuals," Faires says. "We wanted the entire experience to mirror the way you might feel walking into New York. For example, the experience of walking down one quiet, simple street, but then turning a corner and finding excitement and constant discovery."
When we think of Man Repeller, we envision mixed prints, bold colors, and whimsical patterns — sights that (for lack of a better explanation) feel really good on our eyeballs. Faires confirms that the aesthetic of Hotel Man Repeller is an experience for the senses. "My personal aesthetic tends to lean towards a more minimalist approach, which we were all aware of throughout the design process," she says. "The overall visual experience is a conscious merging of clean design and on-brand maximalism."
The hotel's existing interiors, a playful take on modern design by Roman and Williams, created an ideal canvas for the Man Repeller team. "We then built our experience on scent, sound, prints, and small surprises," Faires reveals. The team even took over Freehand's gift store, offering up everything your stop-and-shop dreams are made of. Items include collaborations with Lizzie Fortunato, KULE, The Giving Keys, Roxanne Assoulin, and a few more designers to create products specifically for the experience. The team also worked with design studio Print All Over Me to create bucket hats, fanny packs, and weekender bags. In short, if a hotel guest forgot to pack anything at all, Team MR had it covered.
The final — and perhaps most useful — creation for the weekend extravaganza is Man Repeller's New York City guide. The carefully crafted book included not only the weekend itinerary, but also a 45-page NYC how-to with neighborhood guides and maps illustrated by Abigail St. Claire. If this is just the start of city guides by Man Repeller, we'd like to sign up for all future editions, please.
Of course, tons of thought also went into the weekend's programming. The itinerary included an activity for everyone— the travel enthusiast, the party goer, the craft lover, the shopper, and even the movie buff. The schedule was by no means a back-to-back list of mandatory events, but rather, an all-are-welcome invitation to tons of fun activities. The lineup included a double-decker tour, a movie screening at the Roxy Theater, cocktails and shopping at Canal Street Market, and even a big night out themed, "Love Summer Forget Everything Else."
We asked some of Hotel Man Repeller's key planners what aspect of the weekend they were most excited about. Crystal Anderson, operations manager at Man Repeller, explains, "Experience is the new luxury good. This team put together a slate of experiences that feel both on-brand and genuine. Each and every detail in the activation is meaningful and has purpose behind it — even the gift bag is full of functional items. It's awesome to see the entire picture come together in an organic way." Creative director Faires adds, "For me, it's about making sure the guests are continually inspired. From the moment they show up to the moment they leave, I want people to feel like they're really excited to be there." Finally, Matt Little concludes, "This is such a personal project for the team. We're really showing everyone what we love, so I'm excited for the energy around that. I think that will really shine through in the guest experience." The hotel's personal touches and unexpected twists were evident and wholly appreciated by guests from all over the world. We can only hope there are more Man Repeller experiences, crafted just as carefully as this one, coming soon.
And, if you missed Hotel Man Repeller, fear not! The gift shop is still open and waiting for you at Freehand Hotel.