By then, Birkin had relocated to France, a country that eventually embraced her as one of its own. Meanwhile, her tumultuous Relationship with Gainsbourg continued, and over their 12 years together, the two would release several albums, and Birkin appeared in Gainsbourg’s directorial debut, also called Je t’aime moi non plus, for which she would be nominated for a Best Actress César Award. Birkin and Gainsbourg also shared a daughter, actress and singer Charlotte Gainsbourg, who was born in 1971.

Birkin and Gainsbourg parted ways in 1980, as Birkin’s acting, music, and modeling career continued apace. She also gave birth to a third daughter, actress and model Lou Doillon, in 1982, following a relationship with director Jacques Doillon. 

Shortly thereafter, she inspired the now-iconic Birkin bag from luxury leather brand Hermes, after—according to the company—she was seated next to Jean-Louis Dumas, then the executive director of Hermes, and “was complaining that she couldn’t find a bag suitable for her needs as a young mother.” The resulting bag, inspired by that discussion, was first released in 1984, and remains a cultural signifier of luxury and wealth to this day.

Jane Birkin carries her namesake bag in 2004. Photo by Michel Dufour/WireImage

Michel Dufour

Years later, Birkin would ask Hermes to remove her name from the bag over concerns about the treatment of crocodiles killed to create the purses. According to a 2015 report in the Guardian, Birkin and Hermes reconciled after changes were made to the slaughter process at a Texas farm where the bag-providing animals were raised. 

That incident was only one in a series of protests by Birkin. Most recently, in 2022, she joined other French celebrities, including actress Marion Cotillard, in cutting her hair as a gesture of support for Iranian women killed for violations of that country’s hijab regulations. 

At the time of her death, Birkin’s credits included over 20 albums, roles in 65 films, a 2007 directorial debut in the feature film Boxes, and three Cesar nominations. In a statement issued Sunday, Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo said the “most Parisian of the English has left us. We will never forget her songs, her laughs and her incomparable accent which always accompanied us.”

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