July 25, 2024

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Actress, singer and fashion icon Jane Birkin has passed away at the age of 76

Actress, singer and fashion icon Jane Birkin has passed away at the age of 76

Hermes created the Birkin bag in her honor in 1984

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Actress and singer Jane Birkin, who made France her home and charmed the country with her English elegance, natural style and social vigor, has died at the age of 76.

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The London-born star and fashion icon is best known for her musical and romantic relationship with French singer Serge Gainsbourg. Their hits notably included “Je t’aime moi non plus” (“I love you, and I’m not”). Birkin’s ethereal, British-accented singing voice overlapped with his gruff singing voice in a 1969 duet that helped make it popular and banned in Italy after it was denounced by the Vatican newspaper.

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The Birkin style displayed in the ’60s and early ’70s—long hair with bangs, jeans paired with white T-shirts, mini knit dresses and basket bags—still epitomizes the pinnacle of French elegance for many women around the world.

Birkin has also been synonymous with the Hermes bag that bears its name. Created by the Paris fashion house in 1984 in her honor, the Birkin bag has become one of the most exclusive luxury items in the world, with a high price tag and a long waiting list to buy it.

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In her adopted France, Birkin has also been celebrated for her political activism and campaigning for Amnesty International, the Myanmar pro-democracy movement, the fight against AIDS and other causes.

“You can always do something,” Birkin said in 2001, rallying support for Amnesty International’s campaign against torture. You could say, ‘I’m not okay with that. “

She joined five monks marching during the Cannes Film Festival in 2008 to demand that Myanmar allow foreign aid workers into the country to help cyclone victims.

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In 2022, she joins other screen and music stars in France in chopping off locks of their hair in support of the protesters in Iran. Charlotte Ginsbourg, Birkin’s daughter with Ginsburg and an actress in her own right, chopped off part of her mother’s hair for the “HairForFreedom” campaign at a time when Iran was engulfed in anti-government protests.

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French President Emmanuel Macron has hailed Birkin as a “complete artist”, noting that her soft voice goes hand in hand with her “enthusiastic” vigor.

“Jane Birkin was a French icon because she was the embodiment of freedom, and she sang the most beautiful words in our language,” he wrote on Twitter.

French media reported that Birkin was found dead at her home in Paris. The French Ministry of Culture tweeted that Birkin had died on Sunday. He hailed her as a “timeless Francophone icon”.

Culture Minister Rima Abd al-Malik described Birkin as “the most British-French figure” and “the emblem of an entire era without precedent”.

Outside Birkin’s home in Paris’ Left Bank, fans mourned her death.

“She was a poet, a singer, and an artist,” said Marie Jo Bonnet. “She gave her best and that’s great.”

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Birkin’s slate of early films included “Blow-Up” in 1966, which he credits with helping introduce French audiences to her “Swinging 1960” style and aesthetic.

Birkin and Ginsburg met two years later. She remained his muse even after the couple separated in 1980.

She also has a daughter, Kate, with James Bond composer John Barry. Kate Barry passed away in 2013 at the age of 46. Birkin had her third daughter, singer and model Lou Doillon, with French director Jacques Doillon.

Birkin has suffered from health problems in recent years that have prevented her from performing and her public appearances have become sparse.

France’s BFMTV said Birkin suffered a mild stroke in 2021, forcing her to cancel shows that year. She canceled her shows back in March due to a broken shoulder.

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A return to performing in May was postponed, as the singer said she needed more time and promised her fans that she would see them again in the fall.

Despite her decades-long music career, Birkin suspected that for some people the bag bearing her name might be her most famous legacy.

The fashion accessory was born in a chance meeting on a flight to London in the 1980s with the then head of Hermès, Jean-Louis Dumas. Birkin recounted in later interviews that they spoke after some of her things were spilled on the cabin floor. I always asked why Hermès didn’t make a bigger handbag and painted on the plane vomit bag what kind of bag she wanted.

Then Dumas had an example made for her, and she was flattered, and she said yes when I asked Hermès if she could market the bag under her own name.

In a 2018 CBS Sunday Morning interview, Birkin joked that she might be what she’s best known for.

“I thought, ‘Oh my God, in my obituary, it’s going to say, ‘Like a bag’ or something,” she said. “Well, it could be worse.”

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