The world bids farewell to Jane Birkin, a globally renowned British actress and singer who achieved significant popularity in France, as she passes away at 76, as reported by BFMTV, a CNN affiliate. Birkin, having spent nearly six decades in the public eye, was a beloved figure in France, her adopted country, despite being a native Englishwoman.
Birkin’s journey to stardom began shortly after her relocation to Paris at 20, when she fell for the celebrated French actor and singer Serge Gainsbourg. The age gap of nearly 20 years between them intrigued the public, adding to their charm. Their frequent collaborations, including the sensuous duet “Je t’aime… moi non plus,” the explicit lyrics of which led to it being prohibited in several countries, were highly anticipated.
Following her death, French President Emmanuel Macron tweeted, highlighting Birkin as a French icon for embodying the spirit of freedom and for her beautiful contributions to the French language. Birkin, though renowned through her relationship with Gainsbourg, emerged as a fashion luminary and an independent star in France.
Birkin became the muse for the famed Birkin bag, an iconic product from the French luxury brand Hermes. Her unique style was paradoxically deemed ‘very Parisian’ by her daughter Lou Doillon, despite her British origins.
The cause of Birkin’s death remains undisclosed, but her health had been deteriorating in recent years, with a stroke occurring in 2021. One of her final public appearances was at the premiere of the documentary “Jane by Charlotte,” exploring her relationship with her daughter Charlotte. She is survived by Lou Doillon and Charlotte Gainsbourg, her daughter with Serge. Birkin’s other daughter, Kate Barry, passed away in 2013.
A Shining Star of French Cinema
Jane Birkin was born in London in 1946 and married the famous British composer John Barry in 1965. After a brief and unhappy marriage, she left for Paris in 1968 to work on the film “Slogan,” where she met Gainsbourg. Gainsbourg penned the song “Je t’aime… moi non plus” for Birkin, which became an international sensation that same year.
Birkin then became a beloved figure in French cinema, starring in over 70 films and working with distinguished French directors like Jean-Luc Godard, Agnes Varda, and Bertrand Tavernier. Some of her significant works include “Blow Up” (1966), “La Piscine” (The Swimming Pool, 1969), and “Death on the Nile” (1978). Despite the end of their romantic relationship in 1981, Gainsbourg and Birkin maintained a good rapport and continued their artistic collaborations.
Birkin’s stellar performance in the film “La Pirate” directed by Jacques Doillon, the father of her daughter, earned her a Cesar nomination in 1985. She also had a prolific music career, releasing several French language records. Her latest album, “Oh! Pardon tu dormais,” released in 2020, touched upon the tragic death of her first daughter, Kate.
Legacy of the Birkin Bag
Birkin, while continuing to act, sing, and model, achieved global recognition for her role in creating the iconic Birkin bag. During an interview with CNN’s Chief International Anchor Christiane Amanpour in February 2020, Birkin narrated the story of how a casual conversation with Jean-Louis Dumas, the then-chairman of Hermes, on an Air France flight led to the creation of the Birkin bag.
When her belongings tumbled out of her Kelly bag, an older design from Hermes, she suggested to Dumas the need for a larger bag, even providing a rough sketch on an airplane sick bag. True to his word, Dumas introduced the Birkin bag in 1984. This bag remains one of the most recognized and sought-after luxury items globally. Today, rare versions of this bag can fetch hundreds of thousands of dollars at auctions. Even after nearly 40 years, demand for the Birkin bag continues to exceed its supply, as stated by British Vogue.