Few style icons retain their relevancy as staunchly as Jane Birkin has. Even fewer get a purse named after them that’s so in demand there’s an infamous waitlist. It’s hard to think of someone more effortlessly chic than Birkin, who passed away at 76 this weekend after years of battling cancer. With her classic bangs, perfect pout, and a wardrobe full of t-shirts and army surplus store pieces, she’s inspired generations of no-makeup makeup looks and paved the way for the boyish model-off-duty aesthetic.

FRANCE – APRIL 25: Serge GAINSBOURG and Jane BIRKIN arriving at the Artists Union’s Gala, Paris. (Photo by Keystone-France/Gamma-Keystone via Getty Images)

Despite being from London, Birkin worked her way into French hearts throughout her nearly six decades-long career in French cinema and music, earning the title of France’s favorite “anglaise.” She solidified her importance to the country through her relationship with actor and singer Serge Gainsbourg, whom she met while acting in the movie “Slogan.” Shortly after filming, Gainsbourg and Birkin released the song “Je t’aime moi non plus,” which was shockingly sensual and banned in several countries as a result.

Her fashionable influence reached its peak through a serendipitous encounter. Birkin was upgraded to first class on a 1980s flight, during which Birkin complained to her seatmate about her struggle to find a proper weekend bag to carry all of her belongings. The fellow passenger happened to be Jean-Louis Dumas, the chief executive and artistic director of Hermés, and thus the Birkin bag was born. Ironically, in the years to follow, Birkin rarely carried the Hermés classic due to her struggles with tendinitis.

After her passing, Hermès shared a statement about Birkin’s relationship with the brand: “With a shared sensitivity, we grew to know each other, we discovered and appreciated the extent to which Jane Birkin’s soft elegance revealed an artist in her own right, committed, open-minded, with a natural curiosity of the world and others.”

While part of Birkin’s fame was due to her sex appeal and beauty, it was her strangeness and idiosyncrasies that left the public mystified and enamored. It would be easy to remember her solely for her appearance or namesake accessory, yet her warmth, poise, and talent far outshine such trivial matters. Rather, the actress and singer leaves behind a legacy of beauty deeper than the surface and generations of fans inspired by her art.

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