France icon Jane Birkin passes away


PARIS: British-born actress and singer Jane Birkin, a 1960s wildchild and inspiration behind the famous Birkin bag, has died in Paris aged 76.

The French Culture Ministry said the country had lost a “timeless Francophone icon”.

The “most Parisian of the English has left us,” said Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo. “We will never forget her songs, her laughs and her incomparable accent which always accompanied us.”

Jane Mallory Birkin was born in London in December 1946, daughter of British actress Judy Campbell and Royal Navy commander David Birkin.

She first took to the stage aged 17 and went on to appear in the 1965 musical “Passion Flower Hotel” by conductor and composer John Barry, whom she married shortly after. The marriage ended in the late 1960s.

It was in France that she truly shot to fame, as much for her love affair with tormented national star Gainsbourg, as for her tomboyish style and endearing British accent when speaking French, which some said she cultivated deliberately.

Following the breakup of that relationship in 1981, she continued her career as a singer and actress, appearing on stage and releasing albums such as “Baby Alone in Babylone” in 1983, and “Amour des Feintes” in 1990, both with words and music by Gainsbourg.

Gainsbourg’s drinking eventually got the better of the relationship, and Birkin left him in 1981 to live with film director Jacques Doillon. However she remained close to the troubled singer until his death in March 1991.

It was around this time that she inspired the famous Birkin bag by French luxury house Hermes, after chief executive Jean-Louis Dumas saw her struggling with her straw bag on a flight to London, spilling the contents over the floor.

Local media reported she had been found dead at her home, citing people close to her. Birkin had a mild stroke in 2021 after suffering heart problems in previous years.

She is survived by two daughters the singer and actress Charlotte, born in 1971, and Lou Doillon, also an actress, born in 1982. She also had a daughter, Kate, who was born in 1967 and died in 2013. Reuters.

 

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