British French actress and singer Jane Birkin© GettyImages

Tracing The Indelible Legacy Of Jane Birkin As A Fashion Icon

Salva Mubarak
Senior Features Writer

One of the most recognisable names in the world of luxury fashion, Jane Birkin passed away on Sunday at the age of 76. The British French actress and singer was not only a prolific performer but a muse for fashion designers and models through the decades.

Jane Birkin and husband Serge Gainsbourg, pictured shopping in Berwick Street market, London, April 1977.©GettyImages

Most of us instantly recognise her name because of the association with one of the most covetable handbags in the world, the Hermès Birkin.

A serendipitous meeting between Birkin and Hermès’ chief executive Jean-Louis Dumas on a flight led to the inception of the iconic handbag. As it turned out, Birkin found herself in the same Air France flight as the designer and got talking to him, without knowing who he was, when the contents of her overfilled straw bag spilled when she tried placing it in the overhead compartment.

When her seat companion told her that she should have gotten a bag with pockets, she replied that she would get a bag that had pockets the day Hermès makes one. This is when Dumas revealed that he was, in fact, Hermès and proceeded to sketch out a design of what would become the Birkin on an airline sickbag.

Street Style - Paris Fashion Week - Menswear Spring/Summer 2024 : Day Five©GettyImages

Aside from being the inspiration behind one of the most famous fashion items in the world, Birkin introduced the world to the ‘French girl aesthetic’.

Born in 1946 in London, she rose to fame in the ’60s after moving to France to pursue her ambitions of becoming an actress. Over the years, she made a name for herself with films like Je t’aime moi non plus (1976) and Slogan (1969) and her music, right from her first album in 1973.

Birkin rejected the hyper feminine fashion that was prevalent during the time, instead opting for a more laid back and almost-insouciant style that continues to be an inspiration to French designers and labels like Celine.

Number one: Jane Birkin©GettyImages

Whether it was a simple white button down with jeans or a custom Paco Rabanne minidress, Birkin wore it like a second skin.

Her unassuming and easy-going-elegance informed what we now know and love as the classic French style, which basically means elevated staples, an aesthetic that continues to be relevant to this date.

MIPTV 2001 - Jane Birkin - Before & After Gainsbourg©GettyImages

The icon may have passed on to a better place but her impact will be felt for decades to come.