Singer, Actress, and Inspiration for Birkin Bags, Jane Birkin Dies at 76
Actress and singer Jane Birkin has passed away at the age of 76. While her death was confirmed by President Emmanuel Macron of France, her cause of death is currently unknown. The mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo also wrote on Twitter, “The most Parisian of the English has left us. We will never forget her songs, her laughs and her incomparable accent.” Birkin grew up in England and later moved to France after being cast in several French films, despite not speaking the language at first.
In 1968, she met Serge Gainsbourg, who would go on to change her life in some significant ways. They co-starred in Slogan and began dating and working together professionally. They collaborated on the 1969 song “Je t’aime… moi non plus” (“I Love You… Me Neither”) which proved to be very controversial at the time but led to the duo creating many songs together. Birkin had previously been married to British composer John Barry, who created that iconic James Bond theme. Birkin stayed with Gainsbourg until 1980 and then dated French film director Jacques Doillon until 1991.
Birkin appeared in such films as Blowup (1966), Kaleidoscope (1966), Death on the Nile (1978), and Evil Under the Sun (1982). She also released over 10 albums during her long singing career and continued to tour in her later years, until a stroke in 2021 forced her to cancel her upcoming shows.
Birkin’s name will also sound familiar to collectors of luxury bags. She was the inspiration for Hermès Birkin bags, which sell for $10,000 and are extremely difficult to obtain. Birkin was complaining on a flight in 1984 when a plastic bag holding her items broke and she said she wished Hermès created a bigger bag that she could take with her on flights. Lucky for Birkin, she was actually sitting next to the then-head designer of Hermès, Jean-Louis Dumas. He was inspired to create such a bag and named it after Birkin.
In addition to her influences on fashion, movies, and music, Birkin was an activist for women’s and LGBTQ+ rights. Birkin is survived by her two daughters Charlotte Gainsbourg and Lou Doillon, and six grandchildren. Her daughter, Kate Barry, died in 2013 at the age of 46 after falling from her Paris apartment.