Jane Birkin, singer, actress and namesake of Hermès famous handbag, died in Paris Sunday, French media reported. She was 76 years old.
Following a stroke in September, 2021, Birkin canceled her concerts scheduled for later that year. With ongoing health concerns, she canceled additional concerts in March, 2022, and her return scheduled for May was also postponed. She was found at her home by a caregiver Sunday morning.
The London-born Birkin rose to fame in the late ’60s after appearing in Jack Smight’s “Kaleidoscope,” opposite Warren Beatty, and Michelangelo Anonioni’s provocative film “Blow-Up,” in 1966.
Her then-scandalous duet “Je T’aime…Moi Non Plus, with French crooner Serge Gainsbourg further propelled her fame after it was banned by the BBC, condemned by the Vatican for its sexual heavy breathing and moans.
She went on to appear in over 60 films, including “La Piscine,” “The Pleasure Pit,” “Death on the Nile,” and Agnes’ Varda’s “One Hundred and One Nights.” She was nominated for three Cesar Awards during her career, and directed her own film, “Boxes,” which premiered at the Cannes Film Festival in 2007.
In 2004, Birkin was awarded the French Chevalier of the National Order of Merit. Foreign Minister Michel Barnier said her album, “Arabesques” was a work of “cultural diplomacy,” which had a more political bent. She performed in both Israel and Palestine at the time.
The British Birkin had married James Bond composer John Barry at the age of 17. The two had a daughter, Kate, and separated three years later.
She met Gainsbourg on the set of a film and moved to France. The two had a daughter, Charlotte, who became a successful actress and filmmaker.
Charlotte Gainsbourg, recently recounted their relationship in the film “Jane by Charlotte,” which premiered at the Cannes Film Festival in 2021. The film started as a quest to document her mother’s life and history, and over the course of five years turned into a very personal look at their mother-daughter relationship.
Birkin became known for her personal style, which still inspires fashion to this day. She played down her status as a style icon but embraced androgyny. “I’d rather be dressed as a man… As soon as I’m in boys’ things I feel like I’m 12 again. I’ll go on tour in a white shirt and waistcoat,” she told WWD.
Birkin received five bags from Hermès and auctioned them off over the years for good causes, as well as worked with Hermès to donate directly to charities.
“I got Hermès to fork out for my charities once I saw the fortune they were making. A certain amount of money every year goes straight to my charity and it will continue to after my death. This year I was able to [use some of that money] to go to Japan for a benefit concert after the earthquake. We use some of the money to feed the poor people who can’t afford to eat in France. I sold one of my Birkin bags for $163,000 to help the Japanese Red Cross. So that rather trivial piece of heavy luggage has done a lot of good in the world,” she told WWD.
Birkin is survived by daughters Charlotte Gainsbourg and Lou Doillon. Daughter Kate passed away in 2013.