As Saint Laurent announce the model, actress and activist as the latest subject of its Music Project, we look back on the icon’s monumental style
Hedi Slimane is known for spotlighting cultural icons in his campaigns – previous faces of Saint Laurent have included Joni Mitchell, Courtney Love and Marilyn Manson. Therefore it should come as no surprise that actress and musician Jane Birkin was recently announced as the latest face of the brand’s ‘Music Project’; an announcement accompanied by a black-and-white portrait of the star wearing an equally iconic ‘Le Smoking’ jacket.
Birkin’s fashion legacy is well-documented and enduring. Known for her trusty straw basket (which later led to the design of the iconic Hermès ‘Birkin’ bag), her tendency to dress like a fashionable Parisian woman rather than a celebrity starlet and her relationships with designers like Paco Rabanne, Birkin’s provocative style and bohemian attitude have made her a cult icon. In celebration of the new campaign, we look back at a series of style moments which defined the star’s inimitable style.
‘THAT’ WEDDING DRESS
One notable look was the wedding dress Birkin chose for her marriage to Serge Gainsbourg in 1968. A semi-sheer white design made from crocheted lace, the iconic look is renowned for its playful twist on the traditional white wedding dress and its ‘virginal’ connotations. By steering clear of elaborate gowns and instead keeping it simple with a hint of flesh, Birkin became one of the most effortlessly stylish brides in history – and would go on to cause plentiful controversy with Gainsbourg with a number of eyebrow-raising songs.
DRESSED BY COURRÉGES IN LA PISCINE
Released in 1968 and set on the picturesque Côte d’Azur, La Piscine has become as famous for its casual but suggestive style as it has its storyline. The film’s characters were brought to life with costumes by the late designer Andrès Courréges, a pioneer ‘futuristic’ fashion in the 1960s. Birkin played Penelope, an 18-year-old whose innocence has an undertone of seduction – a personality communicated visually through a series of super-short gingham skirts and semi-sheer fabrics that would go on to define the style of late 60s summers.
One of the most famous images of Birkin with her husband Serge Gainsbourg depicts the couple dressed in matching iridescent outfits. The designer of these looks was none other than Paco Rabanne, whose space-age designs and unconventional silhouettes saw him branded an ‘enfant terrible’ by the French fashion industry. Unsurprisingly Birkin was a fan of Rabanne, frequently incorporating his bejeweled designs and famous chainmail dresses into an evening wardrobe that would become synonymous with the shimmering glamour of the late 60s and early 70s.
INSPIRING THE ‘BIRKIN’
The origins of this bag are traced back to a flight which saw Birkin sat next to Hermès’ Chief Executive, Jean-Louise Dumas. As she placed her straw bag in the overhead compartment it burst open, emptying its contents onto the floor. She explained to Dumas that she could never find a leather design that she liked – and the rest is history. The star famously only has one of the namesake designs, stating, “you only need one and that busts your arm; they’re bloody heavy”. Birkin made headlines last year when she wrote to withdraw her name from the bag unless they embraced more ethical manufacturing processes – which they agreed to do.
JE T’AIME… MOI NON PLUS
Je T’aime… Moi Non Plus was not only the title of Birkin’s controversially erotic duet with her then-husband Gainsbourg; it was the title of a 1976 film, starring the actress alongside fellow cult icon Joe Dallessandro. Also directed by Gainsbourg, the film is based on the classic love triangle. Birkin takes a break from playing the good girl, starring instead as truckstop café worker Johnny. As her job role would suggest, Johnny’s wardrobe is an abrupt departure from the flirty mini-dresses and bohemian chic usually associated with Birkin’s style; instead she debuted a new short haircut for the role which, teamed with denims, plain tank tops and low-top trainers, became one of the most-referenced looks of her career.