SHORTLY before Chloë Sevigny took off for an acting role in Europe (portraying a pre-operative, male-to-female transsexual assassin in a new mini-series called "Hit and Miss"), a job that would keep her away from her East Village apartment for several months, she visited a neighborhood holistic food store to buy birdseed for her canary. When the saleswoman asked if she was a member of the store's frequent shopper discount program, Ms. Sevigny said yes and gave her name.
"I knew that was you," announced the customer behind her in line. "I was going to say something. I recognize you by your style."
Recounting this episode a few hours later, over plates of hummus and marinated kale at a cafe near her home, Ms. Sevigny laughed her loud, un-self-conscious, wheeze-honk-honk laugh, and said, "I mean, who says that?"
Well, frankly, if you have been near the fashion, art, skateboarding, grunge or night-life scenes of New York City at any time since roughly 1995, when Ms. Sevigny made her breakthrough in the Larry Clark film "Kids," you might have said the same thing about her idiosyncratic style. She is someone who, now 36, appears as equally confident wearing a pinafore as a prairie dress as a Saint Laurent pantsuit. On this particular day, in early June, she wore faded Levi’s denim shorts that were cut off so shortly as to leave the inside lining of their pockets exposed several inches below the fray, a tight ribbed cotton T-shirt with a scoop neck and cap sleeves and black leather booties. Her hair was unwashed. You would not have confused her with Jessica Simpson.
It was once said of Ms. Sevigny, when she was 19, after Jay McInerney wrote a profile about her in The New Yorker, that she was the coolest girl in the world. Laurels of her part-nerdy, part-perverse sense of fashion have been bestowed at her ever since, prompting Bob Morris to ask, in The New York Times in 2000, "What is it about the young indie actress Chloë Sevigny that has turned the fashion world into a pack of dogs howling about her as if she were a full moon, or a lamb chop?" Her fabulous poses and linguistic mannerisms are so well known that they have become the popular subject of an online video parody by the comedian Drew Droege, who dresses as Ms. Sevigny and recites ridiculous insider fashion references like "this ironic art smock by Balenciaga Le Dix by Nicolas Ghesquiere."
Though you see her everywhere, at art openings and at fashion shows, you don’t get the sense she is overexposed or pie-eyed about the scene. Balenciaga does still send her bags of clothes sometimes, she said, but they don’t fit.
"I hate going to fashion shows,"she said, wheeze-honk-honk. "I find them boring."
Nevertheless, it seems like people have been constantly discovering, or rediscovering, Ms. Sevigny, ever since she was cast in a Sonic Youth video with Mr. Jacobs when she was just a teenage intern at a fashion magazine. She was famously offered a leading role in "Kids" while hanging out with a group of skateboarders that included Harmony Korine, the film’s screenwriter, in Washington Square Park, brought to mainstream attention when she was nominated for an Oscar in 2000 for "Boys Don’t Cry" and more recently praised as America’s favorite sister wife on "Big Love." Now the fashion world is into Ms. Sevigny again, a result of a popular clothing collection she introduced with Opening Ceremony, the downtown retailer, in 2008.
No profile of Ms. Sevigny over the years has failed to note either her distinctive laugh or the impression that she is little bit coy about her coolness, but also mostly genuine. Both are qualities that make people like her. It also helps explain why her fashion designs, now sold in 100 stores around the world, have been so successful. They hold the promise of Ms. Sevigny: looking cool without looking like you are trying.