Actress Who Inspired Hermes Handbag Dies at 76

Jane Birkin, the accomplished actress and singer who inspired the Hermès handbag of the same name, has died at the age of 76.

“On July 16, 2023, actress and singer Jane Birkin died at the age of 76,” the French Culture Ministry tweeted in French on Sunday, July 16, confirming Birkin’s passing. “Her collaborations with the greatest (Serge Gainsbourg, Etienne Daho and Agnès Varda) have made her a timeless French-speaking icon.”

Further details about Birkin’s death, including the cause, have yet to be revealed.

Birkin, who was born in England before eventually relocating to France, was known for her roles in movies such as Evil Under the SunBlow-UpDeath on the Nile and Boxes. She was also a famed singer, even crooning about her intimate Relationship with then-lover Gainsbourg in 1969’s “Je T’aime … Moi Non Plus.”

Jane Birkin Dead at 76: French Culture Ministry Confirms Death of 'Timeless Icon'

Jane Birkin

During her career heyday, Birkin became a muse for Hermès after late chairman Jean-Louis Dumas sat next to her on a flight from Paris to London in 1981. Dumas quickly noticed contents from Birkin’s straw purse falling out when she attempted to stow it in the plane’s overhead compartment. After hearing Birkin complain about the bag’s structure, inspiration struck.

Hermès created a custom handbag for Birkin three years later, which has since become one of the most coveted luxury accessories in the fashion industry.

Birkin carried her one-of-a-kind purse for many years before eventually asking the brand to remove her name from its crocodile-skin handbag in July 2015.

“Having been alerted to the cruel practices reserved for crocodiles during their slaughter to make Hermes handbags carrying my name,” Birkin said in a statement at the time. “I have asked Hermes to debaptize the Birkin Croco until better practices in line with international norms can be put in place.”

Hermès later told Us Weekly in a statement that Birkin had alerted them of her concerns regarding the ethical treatment of crocodiles, noting their intentions to launch an investigation into the matter. “Her comments do not in any way influence the friendship and confidence that we have shared for many years,” the brand’s statement read. “Hermès respects and shares her emotions and was also shocked by the images recently broadcast.”

They added: “Hermès imposes on its partners the highest standards in the ethical treatment of crocodiles. For more than 10 years, we have organized monthly visits to our suppliers. We control their practices and their conformity with slaughter standards established by veterinary experts and by the Fish and Wildlife (a federal American organization for the protection of nature) and with the rules established under the aegis of the U.N.O, by the Washington Convention of 1973 which defines the protection of endangered species.”

The investigation concluded in September 2015 with Birkin telling Reuters in a statement that she was “satisfied” by the brand’s actions.

Birkin, who previously suffered a mild stroke in 2021, is survived by her daughters Charlotte and Lou, whom she shared with exes Gainsbourg and Jacques Doillon, respectively. The late actress was also a mother to daughter Kate, who died in 2013, whom she coparented with ex-husband John Barry.

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