The Rules of Style by Franca Sozzani

What chic/cool/effortless really means


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.


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  • Oh I LOVE this topic.

    Chic = elegant, no? And some high and mighty philosophical thing I studied last term stated that elegant = comfortable. Franca and all the other women (and men!) who I see as chic – Audrey Hepburn, Katherine Kepburn, Kate Middleton, etc etc etc – are or were obviously comfortable in their clothes and in their selves. Chicness is a classless concept, I think, because most humans can gauge whether a person is comfortable in his or her environment based on their body language, smile, concentration… Whereas “cool” differs according to many, many factors.

    Franca’s hair, though, does definitely help.

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  • going to have to admit that I haven’t looked up to Franca Sozzani as a style icon before this post, so I am grateful for bringing this to my attention! before this I’ve just seen her as a creative genius but now I see her as double trouble.

    • Elizabeth Tamkin

      You should read about her too! She’s a pretty inspiring lady (with fantastic hair).

  • Lea Telivuo-Kupari

    Her hair is great but so is her face, so much personality. And I love that she smiles in so many pictures. I’m so tired of the void of expression that botox has given us.

    • Aydan

      YES! Both this and the article with Gayle are showing us true true beauties!!

  • I have always loved Sozzani’s style and I think she does prove one can be chic and cool. I think looking effortless takes a lot of effort in knowing yourself. The only way you can get that perfectly greasy hair is to know how long it takes to get there; to find those jeans that perfectly fall off the hips you need to know what size you need to fit properly and go from there. Sozzani knows herself, knows her style, and has it so down pat she has married chicness and coolness. Thanks for this morning conversation and inspiration!

    • Yvonne Dunlevie

      I totally agree with you, Allie, about knowing yourself and what works for you and what doesn’t! It takes a bit of trial and error, but once you get it down the amount of “effort” that goes into dressing each day truly does decrease.

  • Amelia Diamond

    This is so good it makes me mad

  • Camila Restrepo

    She is one of those women (actually make her a lady, she’s an elegant lady), who I admire her style so much, even though I don’t relate it to it because my personal style is so different from hers.
    She encompasses many different level of Italian style that I love; usage of color is one of them.

    • Elizabeth Tamkin

      Kindof like the wondrous Iris Apfel! That’s very much how I feel, too.

  • Jessica Magee

    I’ve only been overseas once, but I had a flight out of Milan and she was on it, which really makes it feel like I saw all of Italy.

    • Lua Jane

      In a way, you did see a lot, stylewise, at least.

  • Lily

    Thank you. I love this and am inspired by Franca’s elegance. However, wouldn’t describe her style as ‘chic’ or ‘cool’. I know the dictionary defines ‘chic’ as stylishly elegant, but to me, elegance transcends ‘chic’. There is a certain degree of cheeky daring in ‘chic’ and attitude in ‘cool’ but they are worn on the surface and anyone can achieve them with a choice of clothing. But elegance runs much deeper – elegance lives hand in hand with grace.

  • Tales On Silk

    Never really thought of her as a style icon, but this slide show proves me wrong and how – she carries off EVERYTHING so gracefully. Isn’t pic 7 Leandraesque?

  • Didier Champion

    I really love the style of Franca Sozzani. Her look was so awesome !! She was so pretty in her flower dress. 😀
    I think too her face express a really big personality.