The Life Of An Icon: Who Was Jane Birkin?

Jane Birkin left an indelible mark on popular culture. You’ll know the name, but you might not know the extent of the late icon’s body of work and life. So, who was Jane Birkin?

Jane Birkin


Jane Birkin was an actress, singer, model, and the name behind the iconic Birkin bag.  Though not French by birth, Birkin's style was key to defining the 'Gallic' style of the 1960s and '70s.

With the style icon's recent passing, let's explore the question: Who was Jane Birkin?

About Jane Birkin

Early Days

Jane Birkin was born in Marylebone, London on December 14, 1946. Her mother, Judy Cambell, was an actress, and her father, David Birkin, worked in the military. Jane Birkin has described her childhood as ‘divine’ and she said that ‘nothing has ever touched on what fun childhood was’. 

Jane Birkin was only 17 when she married her first husband, celebrated John Barry. Barry is known for his scores for the James Bond movies. After the two parted ways three years after their marriage, Birkin made her move into the world of film. 

Young Jane Birkin

Acting & Singing Career

Birkin began acting in the 1960s. After completing her role in the French film Slogan, she was due to go back to the UK, but she was then hired to play in the 1969 French thriller La Piscine (The Swimming Pool). This movie enabled Jane Birkin to stay in France.

Jane Birkin had perhaps arrived in France at the perfect time. The 1960s was a time when England was having a moment. It had introduced The Beatles, Twiggy, The Rolling Stones, and now Jane Birkin.

In 1969, Birkin and Gainsbourg released the duet ‘Je t’aime… moi non plus’. The song had originally been written with Brigitte Bardot in mind but Jane Birkin took over the female vocals. One of Jane Birkin’s appeals was her English accent when she spoke French, which captivated the hearts of the French public. 

A movie with the same name as Birkin and Gainsbourg’s famous duet was created in 1975. The movie Je t’aime moi non plus was Serge Gainsbourg’s first foray into directing.

Jane and Serge


Jane Birkin had her first child, Kate, with composer John Barry. She had her next child, Charlotte, with Serge Gainsbourg. Her third child, Lou, was with film director Jacques Doillon. 

Kate Barry (born in 1967) was a British fashion photographer who worked for Vogue and The Sunday Times. Barry passed away in 2013 in Paris after a tragic fall from her apartment in Paris.

Charlotte Gainsbourg (born in 1971) followed in her parents' footsteps and is also an actress and singer.

Lou Doillon (born in 1982), just like Birkin, has a career that spans acting, singing, and modelling.

Serge Gainsbourg

It would be impossible to address Jane Birkin’s life without a mention of French singer Serge Gainsbourg. The two started a long-standing romantic and professional relationship after meeting in 1968 on the set of the movie Slogan.

For Birkin, it certainly wasn't love at first sight. However, a love story blossomed between the two that would last until 1980. Birkin was often quoted as admiring Gainsbourg, even long after their romantic relationship ended.

The relationship walked the boundary of passion and tumultuous chaos, especially the latter as Gainsbourg developed an increasingly toxic relationship with alcohol.

Jane Birkin and Serge Gainsbourg

Later Years

Jane Birkin continued to work into her later years. The singer and actress appeared in over 70 movies in her lifetime. 

Birkin was a philanthropist and worked with Amnesty International throughout her years. She was one of 200 public figures who signed an open letter on the front page of the French magazine Le Monde, which urged politicians to fight climate change with haste.

Jane Birkin passed away aged 76 at her home in Paris on July 16, 2023. 

Jane Birkin: A Fashion Icon

The History Of The Birkin

The story of how the Birkin came to be sounds fictional, but it isn’t. The way the Birkin was first imagined, was purely based on a chance encounter between Jane Birkin and Jean-Louis Dumas, the CEO of Hermès at the time.

To set the scene, it was the 1980s and Jane Birkin was on the same Air France flight as Jean-Louis Dumas. Birkin was known for carrying a straw bag. On this occasion, her straw bag fell out of the overhead compartment and onto the plane floor.

Jane Birkin Hermès Bag

This led to a conversation between Birkin and Dumas on the perfect bag. Birkin described the ideal bag as being spacious with pockets. Rumor has it that Birkin drew her perfect bag on a napkin. This drawing went on to provide the inspiration behind the Hermès Birkin bag.

Hermès produced the Birkin bag in 1984. 

Today, the Birkin bag is still the most recognizable and exclusive bag of all time. Due to the convoluted buying process, there is a big demand for Birkin bags on the resale market.

Personal Style

Jane Birkin is known as one of the true fashion icons, with a style that transcends trends and generations. 

While Birkin's style was eclectic, she was more often than not seen carrying a straw basket.

Jane Birkin straw bag

When she first rose to fame, Jane Birkin’s style was synonymous with 1960s free-spirited fashion. Her natural beauty and charm captured the hearts of not only the audience but also fashion designers. It didn’t take long for Birkin to become a muse.

Birkin’s personal style varied from relaxed looks that incorporated denim, to more bohemian outfits. Her versatility and ability to mix high fashion with basics cemented her as a true style icon.

Hermès Birkin Bag

Looking To Buy Or Sell A Birkin?

Whether you have a Birkin to sell or to buy, myGemma is your go-to online destination. 

Sell A Birkin

myGemma makes the selling journey as smooth as possible, simply fill out our online form today to get your quote. Once you have filled out the form, you will receive payment in as little as 24 hours.

Buy A Birkin

If on the other hand, you are looking to buy a Birkin tote bag, myGemma has a wide selection available. Notoriously hard to source firsthand, myGemma is the easiest way to buy an authentic Birkin bag without the wait.

Latest Birkin Arrivals