Although an actress and singer by profession, one of the things that Jane Birkin was best known for was her fashion sense. The British-French actress became the it-girl of Parisian style and the muse behind the iconic Hermès Birkin bag. Jane Birkin sadly passed away this July. So, in her honour, let’s look at the singer and actress’ lasting impact on the fashion industry.
The Early Career of Jane Birkin
Jane Birkin rose to fame in the late 1960s. Early in her career, she was a muse for Paco Rabanne. She made the designer’s mini-dresses a staple piece in her wardrobe. Her style was rooted in simplicity but was consistently elevated. The actress famously styled herself. The timeless image she created sees her fashion choices remaining on mood boards across the globe to this day.
Her style was rooted in an effortless tom-boyishness that was met with elements of overt femininity. The star perfected this intricate balance in a way many try but fail to emulate. This tightrope walk between two binary oppositions made me love her style. Every look was perfect and yet felt so effortless and completely unique. A simple white t-shirt and jeans felt like an innovative and fresh look when worn by Jane. Even a sheer micro dress was an entirely effortless option that appeared to be worn without a care in the world.
The Epitome of the Cool Girl
Whether Jane was wearing a scandalously short smock dress or a shirt and men’s trousers, it didn’t matter. She was the epitome of a cool girl. This was another thing that always drew me to her style; everything felt like her style, but it was varied and didn’t put her in a specific style category. She wore what she liked, and she wore it well.
These binaries were often played subtly; lace may have been paired with casual denim or a loafer. The choice subtly brought in more masculine or androgynous elements alongside notes of femininity. These binaries are continuously being played within today’s fashion, particularly as of late with the rise of the ‘blokette’ trend on social media.
Birkin’s 1970s style may be what she became most famous for. She pioneered the boho-chic look, particularly with her basket handbag that she carried regardless of the occasion. This trend resurfaced over the past couple of years, with hessian bags and cottage-core trends taking over the industry. This accessory was one of my favourite aspects of Jane’s style. It added a pastoral, effortless, and natural element to her looks and felt reflective of her personality – the perfect embodiment of her personal style.
Jane Birkin and Her Bag
Now, with a sense of style so heavily rooted in effortlessness, you may wonder how she became the namesake of the luxurious Hermès Birkin bag. Well, she could not have been the style icon she was if she did not have an eye for fashion. That goes without saying. So, it is unsurprising that this eye for fashion went beyond styling.
In 1983, she was travelling with Jean-Louis Dumas, creative director of Hermès, when the contents of her bag spilt across the plane floor. This led them to a conversation about Dumas’ bags in which Jane suggested he design a bag four times larger than the Kelly. This prompted Dumas to ask Birkin to draw this for him, and so, with minimal resources, she grabbed one of the in-flight sick bags and got sketching. At that moment, the Birkin bag was born.
Attaching your name to the most famous handbag in history is one way to leave your legacy in the fashion world. However, even without the Birkin bag, her fashion influence was so prominent that she would have gone down in fashion history regardless.
Amelia Gregory is Junior Fashion Lead for SSEDITORIAL. She writes on everything from sustainability to runway. She is our lead contributor for red carpet reviews, so keep an eye out for her latest 'Best Dressed' list. Find her on Instagram: @milly_gregory