Singer, actor, fashion icon and activist, Jane Birkin was a woman that defined her time.

66ème Festival du Cinéma de Venise (Mostra), 6ème jour (07/09/2009)

From her signature laissez-faire fringe to the timeless Birkin bag, Jane Birkin’s style has continued to inspire, even after her death at age 76. The British-born actress and singer, who made France her home, was renowned for her effortless ‘French girl’ style, which remains iconic across generations.


Jane Birkin's style

Early Life and Career Beginnings

Born on December 14, 1946, in London, Jane Birkin’s parents were prominent figures in British society. Her father, David Birkin, was a Royal Navy Lieutenant Commander, while her mother, Judy Campbell, was a well-known British actress and singer. Despite this, Jane struggled to make her mark in the London theatre circuit, often living in her mother’s shadow.

However, at 17, her career began to take off when she landed her first role as a deaf and mute girl in the play “Carving a Statue.” She continued to build her acting career throughout the ’60s, and by the end of the decade, she was making waves as a promising young actress.

Style Evolution and Iconic Moments

Birkin was known for her simplistic and chic style. She was always ahead of the style curve, from her casual white cotton pants and red ballet flats on a French vacation to her quirky tank top and gold coin necklace while eating ice cream in London. Her style was often described as “effortlessly chic,” a perfect blend of English rumpled charm and classic French elegance.

One of her most iconic style moments was her love for the striped Breton sweater. She popularized this classic French garment, making it a must-have in every fashion-conscious woman’s wardrobe. The Jane Birkin Striped Knit Cotton Sweater has been recreated at FABA, allowing modern fashion enthusiasts to channel Jane’s timeless style.

The Birkin Bag and Its Origin and her change of heart

Jane Birkin was a style icon and a muse for one of the most iconic bags in the world – the Birkin bag. The origins of this luxurious handbag can be traced back to a fateful flight from Paris to London. Birkin was known for carrying a straw basket filled with makeup, keys, and other items. Her overflowing basket caught the attention of Jean-Louis Dumas, the chief executive of Hermes, who was inspired to create a tote spacious enough for all her belongings. The result was the Birkin bag, a satchel-style handbag made from supple leather-based on an earlier design from around 1900.

The Birkin bag quickly became a globally recognized emblem of status and wealth, coveted by celebrities and fashion enthusiasts alike. Despite its hefty base price of over $10,000, the Birkin bag remains highly desirable and customizable. A Diamond Himalaya version made history as the most expensive handbag ever sold at auction, fetching over $450,000 at Sotheby’s in 2022.

In 2016, Birkin asked luxury manufacturer Hermès to remove her name from its crocodile-skin handbag after learning the “cruel” methods used to make the famous accessory.

“Having been alerted to the cruel practices reserved for crocodiles during their slaughter to make Hermès handbags carrying my name … I have asked Hermès to debaptise the Birkin Croco until better practices in line with international norms can be put in place,” Birkin said in a statement.

Hermès denied that the farm belonged to them or that the skins from the farm are used to make their Birkin bags, asserting that “an investigation is underway at the Texas farm which was implicated in the video. Any breach of rules will be rectified and sanctioned.”

Legacy and Influence

Even after her death, Jane Birkin’s influence on fashion remains profound. Her ‘woke-up-like-this’ glamour and bohemian style continue to inspire designers and fashion enthusiasts worldwide. Whether it’s her classic white tees, patchwork denim jeans, or faithful basket bag, Birkin’s style continues to be a testament to her timeless elegance and carefree charm.

In the words of the late muse herself, “I buy things often, but I sleep in them for two weeks, and then they look quite rough.” Yet, to everyone watching, Jane Birkin always looked perfect. Her style perfectly blended comfort and chic, making her the ultimate style icon.

Remembering Jane Birkin, we celebrate not just a woman who was comfortable in her skin but also one who understood the power of fashion as a form of self-expression. From the streets of Paris to the global stage, her style legacy continues to inspire, proving that true style transcends trends and time.

20 juillet, 2023 — Ane Howard