On Sunday, actress and singer Jane Birkin passed away at 76. Birkin had been canceling and postponing concert appearances after a stroke she had in 2021. Her name is synonymous with fashion and Hermès — Hermès named the world-famous Birkin bag after her.
Birkin sat next to Hermès executive Jean-Louis Dumas on a flight from Paris to London in 1984. When she went to put her signature straw bag in the overhead compartment, it tilted over, and its contents fell out. Birkin told Dumas about her struggles to find a sizable leather bag she liked. That same year, the Hermès Birkin bag debuted after Dumas tapped into Hermès’ design archives.
Despite having one of the most coveted luxury handbags in the world named after her, Birkin didn’t forsake her signature straw bag for more than a decade throughout the 1970s. Birkin first adopted the straw bag after discovering it on a trip to Portugal. The straw bag was basically a fisherman’s basket, but it became Birkin’s go-to bag for trips to the farmers market and socialite events. She famously wore the bag at a pro-choice rally in France in 1972.
The bag held everything, including Birkin’s makeup, keys and various other items. In a 2018 interview, the style icon said, “I was well known for carrying a basket. So I obviously knew girls liked to have masses of things in their handbag.”
Birkin paired her straw bag with casual outfits like jeans and T-shirts and also wore the bag with evening gowns and heels.
Photos of Birkin depict using the straw bag to grocery shop and hold things like bread and even pick up her morning newspaper. The bag would influence generations of French girl style, and other brands, including Saint Laurent, Miu Miu, Loewe and Poléne have all created versions of the straw bag.
Birkin’s style was often described as bohemian chic, and she found ways to elevate classic wardrobe staples from minimalist T-shirts to oversized sweaters. The straw bag is an eternal aspect of her fashion aesthetic that is poised to continue influencing French girl style for generations to come.