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Fashion Meets Music: Jane Birkin


Jane Birkin

Jane Birkin

Jane Birkin is not just any British beauty, the family that she has raised with iconic singer/songwriter, Serge Gainsbourg and French film director, Jacques Doillon is a living testament to her enduring style. Her daughters are Charlotte Gainsbourg, a singer/actress/model, and Lou Doillon, an actress/model/fashion designer. Jane’s career talents include, singing, acting, modeling, and film directing.

She was born in London and married John Barry when she was seventeen and had a daughter, Kate, before moving to Paris to pursue acting. Birkin’s standout role in Michelanglo Antonioni’s film, Blow-Up, gained her much attention after the film was well received at the Cannes Film Festival in the mid sixties. It was then that Pierre Grimblat cast her to star opposite Serge Gainsbourg in Slogan, shortly after filming started so did their love affair. Jane became Serge’s muse, they were inseperable, and often seen out on the ‘underground’ bar scene.

Serge and Jane

Serge and Jane

They recorded Je T’aime Moi Non Plus together after their affair blossomed. The song was originally written by Serge for Bridget Bardot while they were dating. After their split a heartbroken Serge met Jane and recorded the track with his new muse. Jane’s exhilarating whispers over Serge’s erotic lyrics was the talk of the town when it was released, because it caused an outrage. The press was enraged over the song’s “lewd” message, the BBC banned it and the Vatican went as far as to release a statement about the immoral nature of the song. The single appeared on the Jane Birkin Serge Gainsbourg album, which was released in 1969. Jane sang four tracks on her own, others in duet with Serge, including the timeless ’69 Année Erotique.  Censorship went wild, and the record sold a million copies in a matter of months with the help of all the free publicity. The couple made the headlines in all the magazines, gained a lot of media attention, and had fun being the most scandalous couple of the year. Charlotte was born in 1971 and Jane took two years off.

Jane with Serge and the girls

Jane with Serge and the girls

Jane wasn’t afraid to bare all. A night on the town she could be seen in a transparent dress, self assured and stunning. Her signature style however, was more of an effortless casual chic, mixing elements from menswear, usually seen carrying a wicker basket, and her hair always down, tousled. (Yes, the Hermes bag was named after her, we’ll get to that a little later). She attributes the French loving her because “I was a Brit at the perfect time. It was the British renaissance. David Bailey. Mini-skirts. The King’s Road.”

Jane Birkin

Jane Birkin

Jane did leave Serge while pregnant with her third daughter, Lou Doillon, for French director, Jacques Doillon. She and Serge remained close until his death in 1991 from heart failure. In fact, Serge never stopped writing songs for her, she never stopped singing them either. Just a couple of months before he died Serge dedicated the album, Amours des Feintes, (Loves of the Feigned) to Jane. Jane divorced Jacques in 1993.

Young Jane, her eldest daughter Charlotte Gainsbourg, and Jane today

Young Jane, her eldest daughter Charlotte Gainsbourg, and Jane today

The elusive Birkin bag. Stories vary, but this one seems most interesting: Birkin told noted fashion writer Dana Thomas that while seated next to Hermès CEO Jean-Louis Dumas in 1984 on a Paris to London flight, she opened her Hermès-made datebook and a flurry of loose notes fell to the floor. Dumas took her datebook and returned it a few weeks later with a pocket sewn into the back (which has since become standard). Birkin went on to discuss with Dumas her difficulty in finding a leather weekend bag and at his prompting, described her ideal. Shortly thereafter, the bag she described arrived at her flat with a note from Dumas. She claims that the bag is now more famous than she! People will ask her children if they are daughters of The Bag. The buzz around the bag is that there is a two year client waiting list and that custom bags can reach upwards of $10,000!

In an interview  she once said, "I'd rather be dressed as a man"

In an interview she once said, "I'd rather be dressed as a man"

Today, Jane devotes herself to her family and humanitarian work. She has a new album out, Jane Birkin Au Palace. She is touring in Europe until February 2010 be sure to check out Jane Birkin’s website for details.


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