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In pictures: Jane Birkin’s enduring style legacy


By Oscar Holland, CNN

(CNN) — Jane Birkin, who died Sunday aged 76, will be remembered for many things: Her collaboration with long-time partner Serge Gainsbourg, her vocals on his hit “Je T’aime… Moi Non Plus” and her acting on both stage and screen, among much else.

It is in fashion, however, that her legacy may endure the longest.

The London-born muse who became a star in France, her adopted homeland, has long been considered a style icon. This is thanks, in no small part, to the famous Hermès bag named after her.

The timeless design emerged from a chance encounter between Birkin and the luxury house’s then-chairman, Jean-Louis Dumas, on a flight to London in the 1980s.

Birkin reportedly couldn’t find a leather bag she liked on the market, and instead was often photographed using a wicker basket as a purse. The day before she met Dumas, Gainsbourg accidentally crushed one of her baskets with his car.

Birkin sketched out her idea for a generously-sized handbag on an airplane sick bag. Hermès (which in a statement Sunday said it had lost “a close friend and a long-time companion”) obliged, and the accessories now sell for tens — and even hundreds — of thousands of dollars.

“When I’m dead, not only (will I be remembered for) ‘Je T’aime… Moi Non Plus’ and ‘Blowup,’” Birkin told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour in 2020, referring also to her breakout movie, “but (people) will possibly only talk about the bag.”

But doing so would overlook the preceding decades, the ‘60s and ‘70s, in which Birkin’s tousled bangs, basket bags and crotchet pieces epitomized her seemingly nonchalant “French girl style.”

And whether it was high-waisted flares, minidresses or the white gown she famously wore backwards (and which plunged so deeply it had to be affixed with a brooch) to the Gala de l’Union des Artistes in 1969, fans would continue to emulate her unconventional fashion choices.

Over the years, designers including Paco Rabanne and Martin Margiela sought her services as a model and collaborator. And as recently as 2016, she appeared in a campaign for Saint Laurent. Birkin remained an understatedly glamorous fixture on red carpets and stages around the world, as she continued performing well into her later years.

Scroll down to see some of Jane Birkin’s most stylish moments.

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