Jane Birkin, the British-French singer and actress whose collaborations with artist Serge Gainsbourg made her an iconic figure in the 1970s and whose personal style inspired a luxury handbag, died Sunday in Paris. She was 76 years old.
Her death was confirmed by French President Emmanuel Macron, who called her a “French icon” in a proclamation The message posted on Twitter. the French media She stated that Mrs. Birkin had been found dead in her home but the cause was not immediately known.
It was Mrs. Birkin’s personal and artistic relationship with Mr. Gainsbourg that made her famous abroad, particularly after her 1969 hit song “Je t’aime… moi non plus” (“I love you… I’m not”). In America, Mrs. Birkin has been known for lending her name to her iconic Hermès handbags, status symbols with her signature locking strap and signature latch.
Jane Mallory Birkin was born on December 14, 1946 in London to actress Judy Campbell and Cmdr. David Birkin of the Royal Navy. But it was the years she spent in France that made her famous and made her the embodiment of Parisian elegance.
Among her first acting roles was the blonde in Michelangelo Antonioni’s 1966 Blow-Up. Two years later, on a film set, Mrs. Birkin meets Mr. Gainsbourg, beginning a 12-year love affair and capturing France.
Their rousing duet “Je t’aime… moi non plus”, whose lyrics punctuate Mrs. Birkin’s moans, has been seen as the epitome of the sexual revolution of the 1960s. The Vatican condemned him.
After Gainsbourg’s relationship broke up in 1981, Ms. Birkin continued singing and acting, including in films by Agnès Varda and Patrice Chéreau. In 1983, she released the album “Baby Alone in Babylone” which featured music and lyrics by Mr. Ginsburg.
Mr. Gainsbourg, the director and composer whose music helped pioneer contemporary French pop music, has died at the age of 62 in 1991.
“He wrote to me from 1968 until the day he died,” Ms. Birkin said in an interview with The New York Times in 2018. “Why he asked me to interpret the songs that inspired it, I don’t know – but he probably knew I’d be faithful to that at least.”
Mrs. Birkin’s look and carefree, bohemian style have fascinated generations of style lovers and inspired the expensive and highly desirable Hermès Birkin bag.
“I love being a stylish person and wearing Kelly,” she said in a 2018 YouTube interview, referring to the ladylike handbag created and named for the movie’s star, Grace Kelly. “But I never thought you could get enough of that.”
He began collaborating with Hermès, the French luxury house, after its CEO, Jean-Louis Dumas, saw Mrs. Birkin struggle with a straw basket on a flight to London, its contents overflowing onto the floor. Mrs. Birkin said she couldn’t find a leather bag she liked. He created Hermes Birkin, which was, as you asked, “four times the size of Kelly.”
Ms. Birkin was also popular in France as an activist for women’s and LGBT rights and also for her British accent when speaking French, which the French found endearing.
“We have left most of the Parisian English,” wrote the mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo, in V message on Twitter. “We will never forget her songs, her laughter and her incomparable accent that have always accompanied us.”
Ms. Birkin suffered a mild stroke in 2021 and has recently canceled a series of concerts due to health issues.
She is survived by two daughters, whom she had with Monsieur Gainsbourg and the French film director Jacques Doillon: the singer and actress Charlotte Gainsbourg and Lou Doillon, each of whom, like her mother, inspired designers and followers of fashion.
Guy Trippi Contributed reporting from New York.