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February 20, 2018
For this week’s #BORNATDAWNMUSE, we are focusing on English actress, singer-songwriter and model Jane Birkin. Born in Marylebone, London in 1946 to an English actress and Royal Navy lieutenant commander she was raised in Chelsea and described herself as ‘a shy English girl’.
Educated on the Isle of Wight and in London, Jane married composer John Barry in 1965 aged 19. They had one daughter, Kate, but divorced in 1968. Jane returned to her family in London before auditioning for film and TV roles in England and LA.
She epitomised the glamour of London’s Swinging ‘60s. Her acting career began with minor roles but it was on the set of “Slogan“ in 1968 that she met French actor Serge Gainsbourg - a turning point in her personal life and career. In 1969 they had a worldwide hit with “Je t’aime… Moi Non Plus“, so scandalous it was denounced by The Pope. Their passionate and creative relationship lasted 13 years and they had one daughter, actress Charlotte, before separating in 1980.
Jane had an award-winning acting career in British and French cinema throughout the 1960s-2000s and is a noted singer with an impressive discography. Despite an astonishing life, she has also known great tragedy. She had her third daughter, Lou, in 1982 during a relationship with director Jacques Doillon. However, they separated in the 1990s as it was reported he "could not compete with her grief for Gainsbourg" who died in 1991. Her daughter Kate died aged 43 after falling from her fourth-floor Parisian apartment in 2013.
Jane remains one of the world's most iconic fashion muses. She represents classic French chic and English-cool like no other with her androgynous appeal and bohemian attitude. She is synonymous with a wide-eyed, gap-toothed innocence and long, fringed hair. Although relatively simple - high-waisted jeans with a cuffed T-shirt or luxe sweater, unbuttoned white shirt, mini dress with pumps and breton stripes - her provocative style is inimitable. Her trademark basket bag led to the design of the iconic Hermès ‘Birkin’.
Aged 71, Jane resides in Paris and remains as active and radiant as ever. She is a humanitarian activist, working with Amnesty International on immigrant welfare. In 2017 she released ‘Birkin/Gainsbourg: Le Symphonique’, a collection of orchestral interpretations of songs written for her by the actor and continues to perform to sell-out crowds.
Jane has led a remarkable life, and her illustrious film and music career and fashion legacy is well-documented. She is a true fashion icon, inspiring women’s wardrobes the world over. Not bad for a 'shy English girl'.
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