You may not recognize the name or image above, but I’m fairly certain you know who Jane Birkin is. Perhaps you’re a fan of her daughter, Charlotte Gainsbourg‘s latest electronic pop album, IRM, which was produced by Beck and received rave reviews across the board. Maybe you’ve seen her youngest daughter, Lou Doillon, posing for a Givenchy ad in the pages of Vogue magazine. Where did these two savvy style stars get their poise and panache? Why, their gorgeous mother, of course!
After the break, learn more about the woman whose style and candor earned her a namesake Hermès bag.
A few summers ago, I dabbled with the idea of strictly listening to French music of the 1960s. Why not, I thought to myself — everything sounds better and ridiculously more romantic in French. The soothing vocals of Edith Piaf and Françoise Hardy were ecstasy to my ears. Eventually, a friend recommended the albums of Serge Gainsbourg, and in turn, I learned of the beautiful Jane Birkin.
Jane Mallory Birkin was born to an actress and a Royal Navy lieutenant-commander in 1946. During the 1960s mod phenomenon known as “Swinging London,” Jane emerged as a model/actress in the 1966 film, Blowup. After her cinematic debut, Jane went on to audition for a lead actress role in the French film, Slogan. Despite her lack of fluency in French, Jane’s striking beauty and alluring presence got her the part. She co-starred in Slogan alongside Serge Gainsbourg, sang a duet with him on the film’s theme song, and the rest is…well, history!
Jane’s romantic relationship and artistic collaboration with Serge continued throughout the 70′s. Together, they released two albums, duetted on an especially controversial, memorable song, “Je t’aime… moi non plus,” and worked on Serge’s directorial debut film. In 1973, Jane released her first solo album, Di doo dah, and has gone on to release nineteen other albums since then. Her latest album, au palace, was released in 2009 as a live recording. She continues to make music today, collaborating with everyone from Feist to Johnny Marr of The Smiths. As a budding female musician in the 70′s, Jane’s talent and ultra-chic style cultivated a cult following of fans.
As a young woman, Jane’s iconic style transcended time to become the quintessential look of today’s “It Girl.” Super long locks with eyebrow-grazing straight bangs, cat eye make-up application, printed minis that border on being scandalously short, and a cultured attitude that’s an ideal mix of confidence, sex appeal, innocence, and apt acumen, made up Jane’s polished persona. Today, celebrities, heiresses, and muses all over the world channel that same style, both intrinsically and aesthetically, as a subconscious homage to the bewitching Jane Birkin.
So, you may be wondering why the French high fashion house, Hermès, named their five-figure, iconic leather bag after a young English woman. The story goes a little something like this — in 1984, on a flight en route from Paris to London, Miss Birkin was seated next to Hermès CEO Jean-Louis Dumas. Sometime during the flight, Jane took out and opened her Hermès datebook, which immediately released a number of notes, receipts, etc. onto the floor. Dumas insisted on taking the datebook, and returned it to Jane a few weeks later with a pocket sewn onto the back, which has since become a standard Hermès feature. After that, Jane met with Dumas to discuss her difficulty in finding a well-made leather weekender bag. She went on to describe her ideal weekender — which ended up on her doorstep a few weeks later, in the form of the Hermès Birkin bag!
Jane’s intelligence, philanthropic nature, and contagious smile has led to her involvement in a number of charitable causes. Jane worked with Amnesty International on immigrant welfare and AIDS issues, in additional to traveling extensively to third world countries to work with children. She was awarded an OBE, or Officer of The Most Excellent Order of the British Empire, and a French Ordre National du Mérite for her humanitarian interests. In addition to being a jet-setting philanthropist, Jane continues to epitomize effortlessly cool style.
Jane’s effervescent personality, unabashed beauty, brains, and strong sense of individual style make her a true fashion icon. She’s the definition of graceful aging, and a true inspiration for sexually empowered, intelligent young women everywhere!