Wild Young Minds: Jane Birkin: the best of both worlds

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Jane Birkin: the best of both worlds

Put a bit of English freshness and a whole lot of French 'je ne sais quoi' and mix it. What is it you get? Jane Birkin. An English actress and singer, living in France and the owner of an iconic face: a gap between her teeth that holds place for the eternal cigarette sticking in there. Jane Birkin was huge in the sixties and had a magnificent style: bohemian yet simple and chic. No wonder Hermès named a bag after her.

Jane Birkin was born in London in 1946 as the daughter of an actress and a Royal Navy lieutenant-commander and World War II spy. After the introduction of her career as a model and actress in London, she moved to France quite early in her life. In 1968 she had a casting for the French film 'Slogan'. Though she didn't even speak French, she got the part. This is where she met Serge Gainsbourg, who she would date for many, many years. A year later they released the world famous song 'Je t'aime... moi non plus', which was quite scandalous for its explicite sensuality.

Jane Birkin made many more songs, which are both French and English. My favourites are 'Yesterday, Yes a Day', 'Di Doo Dah' and 'Ex-Fan des Sixties', in which she names a lot of my heroes: Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin and Otis Redding, among other. Jane Birkin made a lot of films as well, though they aren't as well-known as many of her songs. Films she made are for example 'Don Juan, or if Don Juan were a Woman', in which she plays Brigitte Bardot's lover, 'Evil under the Sun' and 'La Belle Noiseuse'.

She was very famous for her easygoing and laid-back style, which looked really bohemian and hippy. A simple shirt and a pair of blue flares, or just a white wide dress, made her look sophisticated in a second. Mini skirts, turtle necks and golden jewelry were often seen on her as well. But what she's most famous for, is definitely the Birkin bag.

The story of the Birkin bag is a very remarkable one. In the early eighties, Jane Birkin was sitting next to the C.E. of Hermès on an international flight. She always had a straw basket with her and that was also the case this time. She tried to put the basket in the overhead compartment, but because it was too full, things fell out. This made her complain about finding a proper leather bag. The C.E. of Hermès responded in 1984 by  creating a black leather bag for her: the Birkin bag.

Later in her career Jane Birkin was very active for Amnesty International, she especially did a lot of work on immegrant welfare and AIDS issues.
Her children are all beautiful and succesful, as was to be expected. They come from different men, cause Jane Birkin dated among others John Barry (and they have a daughter Kate Barry, who is photographer), Serge Gainsbourg (with whom she had singer and actress Charlotte Gainsbourg) and Jacques Doillon (which is the father of Lou Doillon, a model, singer and actress, a true it-girl at the moment).

There's no denying that Jane Birkin is an icon. Still alive for a change, and still inspiring many people, I'm sure. She was nonchalant, had this typical 'je ne sais quoi'-thing, but was hard-working and a tough woman at the same time. Jane Birkin definitely is the best of both worlds.

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