This story was published on January 27, 2016, but in the wake of Franca Sozzani’s tragic, illness-related death earlier today, we celebrate the life of an icon who has changed fashion.
I have been under the false assumption for the greater half of my tenure as a contributing (debatable) member of society (also debatable) which suggests that to be chic and to be cool run parallel on mutually exclusive waterslides but that they never, ever intersect on their ride down.
One reason why this is so could be that we’ve become obsessed with effortlessness. The word has indubitably trumped chic, arguably because we experienced such profound fatigue around chic that we tried to replace it with another and in doing so, spiraled ourselves into an entirely new and different mode of dress but guess what happened then?
Effortlessness and a lack of effort became two conflated dressing principles that pointed toward the same changing room. It takes a lack of effort to refuse to shower for a week in order to obtain greasy hair to match your leather jacket. It can be considered effortless to throw on a pair of jeans that hit you just below your belly button, hip bones flirting with the waist line while your crotch wonders how it got so lucky as to be extricated from the inner seam of your pants. This, plus a shower and some perfume, is, in my opinion, effortless. Cool.
And as for chic? Well, chic is a different story. By definition, the word connotes a sense of elegance and this elegance is difficult to divorce from the implications of what it means to be stuck up: buttoned up, zipped up, form fitting and suffocating. When I think chic, I see an extremely fit woman who no doubt gets at least eight hours of sleep each night in a fitted jacket and silk trousers, pearls potentially strung around her neck. She definitely doesn’t drink. Or so her skin indicates. She is, in two words, in control.
But can you be chic and cool? Incidentally, it’s taken me 25 years too long to let the thesis thaw because an answer has been dangling off the tip of Milan for as long as Franca Sozzani has been the editor-in-chief of Vogue Italia. Nowhere else do you see the employment of what I want to call genteel, tea-length skirts and fitted sweaters fall under the cool umbrella. Maybe it’s her hair, or the proclivity she demonstrates to wear a batwing cape over everything else. Maybe it’s her Italian je ne sais quoi, which I totally realize is culturally counterintuitive but I never said anything about being an expert in geography. So I leave you with this: 36 images of Franca Sozzani to mull over while eating your breakfast (or early lunch! Or extremely early dinner! Who knows what kind of four-hour-body diet the media is asking you to join in on, I totally get it) this morning while you satisfyingly ask yourself: can I be chic and cool? Satisfying because now we have an answer! And the answer is…
Not unless you’ve invented technology that had enabled you to become Sozzani.