Say the name “Birkin” and most fashionistas will automatically think of the notoriously luxurious Hermès bag with a three year waiting list. Jane Birkin, the bag’s namesake, is every bit as iconic as the purse named after her.
Jane Birkin, born December 14th, 1946, grew up in London just as the Swinging 60s were taking over – a time in which models like Twiggy filled the pages of Vogue. Unlike Twiggy, however, Birkin’s fame was concentrated outside of Britain and the U.S., in a little city called Paris.
Heavily influenced by her mother, who was also an actress, Birkin first appeared in Michelangelo Antonioni’s film Blowup before making the move to France. Although only in her early twenties, by this age Birkin had a daughter Kate Barry (born April 8, 1967) with her husband John Barry – a marriage that ended by 1968.
Birkin had small roles in several films, both French and English, before landing the starring role in 1969’s Slogan. During the making of the film, Birkin became enamoured with her Slogan co-star Serge Gainsbourg and the two immediately wed. They frequently combined their artistic talents and recorded their first song together in 1969. The song ‘Je t’aime….moi non plus’ created a controversy over its provocative lyrics, which only helped to propel Birkin’s career. When Gainsbourg made the switch to directing films in 1975, he would cast Birkin as his leading lady. The couple had one daughter together, Charlotte Gainsbourg, (born 21 July 1971) before divorcing in 1980.
Birkin never remarried, but after her relationship with Serge Gainsbourg she began dating French film director Jacques Doillon. On September 4th, 1982, she gave birth to third daughter Lou Doillon.
Birkin remained versatile throughout her career. While she collaborated musically with other French musicians like Françoise Hardy and Yann Tiersen, she has also worked with Feist, the Smiths and Franz Ferdinand.
In 1984 the head of Hermès, Jean-Louis Dumas, created the iconic purse after being inspired by Birkin when sitting next to her on a plane. The Birkin bag remains today to be one of the most famous and hard-to-get handbags out there.
Birkin’s eldest daughter Kate Barry went on to study photography, but Charlotte Gainsbourg and Lou Doillon chose to follow in their mother’s footsteps.
Before hitting her teenage years, Lou developed an affinity for a more alternative sense of fashion. She was often seen in band t-shirts, dreadlocks, and tattoos, yet managed to give each of her ensembles a sophisticated edge that made her popular amongst fashion magazines.
As she grew up, Lou continued to express herself through her clothes in a more refined manner. Even today at age twenty six she still manages to retain her trademark spunkiness, frequently pairing evening gowns with leather bomber jackets and classic fedoras. Last year, she signed with denim company Lee Cooper to design a sixteen piece line for the label.
Charlotte Gainsbourg, now 37, has become a style icon in her own right, albeit a very different one than her sister; she is often seen in softer fabrics like cashmere in muted shades of gray. Fittingly, this dreamlike quality has been passed over in her other artistic endeavours. Of her successful acting career, she is probably best known for her role in Todd Haines’ Bob Dylan-inspired film ‘I’m Not There’ and Michel Gondry’s surreal 2006 film ‘The Science of Sleep’. Other movies on her resume include ‘Jane Eyre’ and ’21 Grams’. She has also released an album in 2006, called 5:55, and toured with the French musical duo Air.
Although Jane Birkin was not born in France, every aspect of her career, her style, and her daughters seem to effortlessly embody a Parisian aesthetic coveted by anyone who has ever flipped through a copy of Vogue Paris. Whether working in fashion, in film, or in music, the Birkin/Gainsbourg/Doillon clan do it with style.
Images courtesy of the Fashion Spot forums.