Jane Birkin: Fashion Icon

Actress, Singer, and Serge Gainsbourg Muse

BY: Claire Connors

Of course, Jane Birkin, the woman who inspired the most famous bag on the planet, is a fashion icon. And at 71, the still beautifully complex actress and singer deserves the loving accolades.

When she was just 19 and already a divorced mother to a bright young daughter, Kate, the British actress arrived in France to audition for a film with the country’s most beloved singer/songwriter/artist, Serge Gainsbourg. The two fell hard for each other and began a decades long relationship that resulted in many artistic and personal creations.

They stunned the world in 1969 with the release of their hit single, “Je T’aime…Moi Non Plus.” The song, a romantic—and trés French—tune, ends with Jane apparently having an orgasm while deliciously moaning, screaming, and sighing. “Je T’aime“ was so controversial, the Pope banned it, as did a number of radio stations that deemed it way too “oh-la-la.” No matter, the song was heard around the world, cementing Jane and Serge’s popularity and crowning them the King and Queen of 70s pop culture.

In 1976, Serge directed the film, Je T’aime…Moi Non Plus, starring Birkin and Warhol Factory vet, Joe Dallesandro. Way ahead of its time, it’s the story of Johnny, an androgynous truck stop waitress who has an affair with a gay garbage truck driver. He’s attracted to her boyish body but can only climax when sodomizing her. Needless to say, the film was as scandalous and erotic as the song. Just watch the clip below to see why it was considered so hot.

But perhaps the couple’s most treasured collaboration was the creation of their talented daughter, Charlotte Gainsbourg. The actress, singer, and fashion icon has followed perfectly in her parents’ fascinating footsteps.

As for that fabulous Hermés Birkin bag? The story of how it got designed is one for the fashion books. In 1984, Birkin was seated next to the Hermés CEO, Jean-Louis Dumas, on a flight to London, when she accidentally spilled the contents of her purse at his feet. At Dumas’ insistence, Birkin ended up drawing her ideal bag on a “sick” bag and violá! The Birkin was born. Today, one is worth anywhere between $5000 and $12,000. In 2011, a red crocodile Birkin sold at auction for over $200,000, making the Birkin bag almost as loved and coveted as the woman it was named after.