Jane Birkin, Singer and Inspiration Behind Hermès' Birkin Bag, Dead at 76

Jane Birkin
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The French icon, best known for her song, 'Je T'Aime... Moi Non Plus,' died on Sunday.

Jane Birkin, the singer, actress and inspiration behind Hermès' iconic and highly coveted Birkin bag, has died. She was 76.

The French Ministry of Culture confirmed the sad news in a tweet, calling the British-born singer a "timeless French-speaking icon."

"On July 16, 2023, actress and singer Jane Birkin died at the age of 76," the ministry wrote Sunday. "Her collaborations with the greatest (Serge Gainsbourg, Etienne Daho and Agnès Varda) have made her a timeless French-speaking icon."

While Birkin's cause of death is not yet known, according to multiple reports, the actress had been plagued with health issues in recent years, including a stroke in 2021 and a broken shoulder blade earlier this year, forcing her to cancel a handful of concerts in May.

ET has reached out to Birkin's rep for comment.

Born in London in December 1946, Birkin found a home in France at the age of 20, after moving to Paris to work on the movie Slogan. While on the set of the 1968 film, she met and started a relationship with the film's star, French actor and singer-songwriter Serge Gainsbourg.

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The pair would go on to collaborate on the actress's most well-known song, "Je T'Aime... Moi Non Plus," which translates to "I Love You... Me Neither." The sensual song was considered risqué for its time and was banned by the BBC and condemned by the Vatican.

Birkin and Gainsbourg were together for 12 years, welcoming a daughter Charlotte, before splitting in 1981. The former couple remained friends after their split, with Gainsbourg still writing songs for Birkin up until his death in 1991.

Along with the daughter she welcomed with Gainsbourg, Birkin was also a mom to Kate Barry, who she shared with British composer John Barry. Kate died tragically at 46 years old  after falling from her fourth-floor apartment window in Paris in 2013. She later welcomed daughter Lou Doillon, 40, with French film director Jacques Doillon.

In addition to her musical work, Birkin's acting credits included films such as the 1966 classic Blow Up, Death on the Nile (1978), and Evil Under the Sun (1982).

While her singing and acting roles made her famous, it was the British-born beauty's sense of style that made Birkin a fashion icon in France in the 1960s and '70s, inspiring the creation of one of the most expensive handbags in the world. Named after the singer-actress, the Birkin bag, by French luxury design house Hermès, is still one of the most sought-after purses in the world.

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Birkin's collaboration with the brand started after its chief executive, Jean-Louis Dumas, saw her struggling with a straw basket on a flight to London. Birkin said she had not been able to find a leather bag she liked that would hold all of her essentials. It's then that Hermès created the Birkin for the actress.

"I would love to have been a sort of neat person and wear a Kelly," Birkin said 2018 YouTube interview, referring to the ladylike handbag created and named for film star Grace Kelly. "But I never thought you could get enough in it."

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Per the fashion star's request, the Birkin was made "four times the size of a Kelly."

French President Emmanuel Macron also paid tribute to Birkin following the news, tweeting, "Because she embodied freedom, because she sang the most beautiful words of our language, Jane Birkin was a French icon."

He continued, "A complete artist, her voice was as sweet as her engagements were fiery. She bequeaths us tunes and images that will never leave us."