Birkin devoted her life to various charitable causes, utilizing her time, money and influential status to make a difference.
Jane Birkin, the renowned British singer and actress who achieved fame in France and served as the inspiration behind the iconic Hermès Bag, passed away on July 16th at the age of 76. Throughout her life, Birkin dedicated her time, resources, and influential position to numerous charitable causes. She aimed to leave behind a legacy of both style and social justice, ensuring that her impact would endure even after her passing. Her commitment to philanthropy and advocacy has left a lasting imprint on the world, per PEOPLE.
Peace and love, Jane Birkin💔 pic.twitter.com/lftF8UczLT— Susanna Hoffs (@SusannaHoffs) July 16, 2023
In 2011, Birkin revealed in a Q&A with Women's Wear Daily, "A certain amount of money every year goes straight to my charity and it will continue to after my death," she said. "This year, I was able to [use some of that money] to go to Japan for a benefit concert after the earthquake. We use some of the money to feed the poor people who can't afford to eat in France. I sold one of my Birkin bags for $163,000 to help the Japanese Red Cross. So that rather trivial piece of heavy luggage has done a lot of good in the world."
Birkin moved to Paris at just 20 years old without knowing the language, but she was soon regarded as France's favorite "anglaise" and spent 60 years in the spotlight. As she slowly began her ascent to fame, she fell in love with French actor and singer, Serge Gainsbourg, 20 years her senior. According to CNN, the pair collaborated professionally, performing together on the sultry duet "Je t'aime… moi non plus." The song was banned in several countries due to its explicit lyrics.
Heartbreaking news. Jane Birkin was one of the kindest, dearest, funniest, most generous, original and interesting people I’ve ever known. Thoughts with her family. pic.twitter.com/pRU2MgU21c— Mia Farrow🌻🇺🇸 🏳️🌈 (@MiaFarrow) July 16, 2023
The Indendepent writer Helen Brown states that she spoke to the actress in 2021 when she revealed that in boarding school, she was bullied for her androgynous appearance. "I suffered a lot because of my physique," she said, "especially at boarding school. The others said I was half boy, half girl. I had no breasts, not even a developing bosom. It was horrible."
She later ran away from a "cold, unsuitable" marriage with film composer John Barry and eventually fled to France, where she met Serge Gainsbourg. He helped her find her confidence and freedom. Brown writes, "Birkin was for decades treated as the puppet of a talented man. She'd tell you that Gainsbourg was kind and funny and no cruel Jagger. I think, she loved him to the end. But she'd also tell you not to underestimate her own talent. Because Birkin's clever empathy sold Gainsbourg's difficult genius to the world. Moi? I wish we could have encores, en plus."
In a 2006 interview with CNN, she said of her former flame, who died in 1991, "He and I became the most famous of couples in that strange way because of 'Je t'aime' and because we stuck together for 13 years. And he went on being my friend until the day he died. Who could ask for more? So Paris became my home. I've been adopted here."
According to PEOPLE, the singer became a fashion icon in France in the 1960s and 70s and French luxury design house Hermès put her name on a line of exclusive handbags. She inspired the creation of one of the most expensive and highly sought-after luxury bags in the world!
Jane Birkin talking about using her Birkin bag pic.twitter.com/mYJ9lvpPA5— Micha (@fendiquor) July 16, 2023
Speaking of how France adopted her, she continued in the 2006 interview, "They like my accent [and] when I came here, the skirts were shorter than anyone else's," she humbly told CNN. "Everyone at home was wearing just the same as me. I was the lucky one because I got here first, so they thought it was my fashion."