Style Profile: Jane Birkin
English singer and actress Jane Birkin first appeared on the scene during the Swinging Sixties in London and found stardom after appearing in the 1966 film, Blow-up. Birkin then landed a role in Slogan (1968) opposite Serge Gainsbourg, with whom she fell in love with and recorded the duet “Je T’aime Moi Non Plus.” The song — originally written for and recorded with Gainsbourg’s former lover, Brigitte Bardot — ignited international scandal due to its sexual nature and was banned in several countries.
From there, Birkin’s star only continued to rise and she became a style icon for her bohemian wardrobe. But humble Birkin never considered herself to be influential. “I’ve never been eccentric. It’s just wearing things that are very comfortable, and I like things when they’re particularly old,” Birkin told RUSSH. “Like wearing tennis shoes and taking the laces out. I did that because I gave the shoes to an old tramp lady I looked after. I took the shoelaces out because she had swollen feet and she said that would make her look like a tramp, so I took mine out too. The next thing I knew everyone was wearing tennis shoes with no laces!”
However, Birkin’s impact is undeniable, and her fashion legacy will live on thanks to a chance encounter in 1982 where she met Hermès chief executive Jean-Louis Dumas on a plane. Birkin had just placed her straw bag in the overhead compartment of her seat, but the contents fell to the floor, leaving her to scramble to replace them. Birkin explained to Dumas that it had been difficult to find a leather weekend bag she liked. So in 1984, Dumas designed a black supple leather bag for her: the Birkin bag, based on an 1892 design. Since then, the Birkin has become one of the world’s most recognizable and in-demand handbags. At one point demand for a Birkin was so high that a waiting list of up to six years existed, making it the most coveted bag in history.
Despite all this, Birkin remains unaffected by her impact. “I’ve never considered myself as an icon in any way,” she said. “Not as a fashion icon, not as a cinema icon, not as an anything icon – they’re terms that I don’t really understand. They might have been quite nice once, but they’ve been very flaunted.”