She was also a model and came to be widely seen as a fashion trendsetter, inspiring the Birkin handbag, a style put into production by Hermes in 1984.
In the 1970s, Birkin was known for carrying a large wicker basket large enough for practical use – until a chance encounter inspired a product that swept the world.
The company based its leather tote-style bag on Birkin’s ideas after she bemoaned the lack of large bags for women on the market to Hermes’ chief designer when they were seated next to each other by chance on a flight.
The bag became a fashion hit and has spawned several imitations – but in 2006, Birkin told the Guardian: “I love it, but I lug so much stuff around in it that I believe it is part of the reason I have tendonitis.”
Birkin campaigned for numerous causes throughout her life – including asking Hermes to drop her name from its product in 2015 over animal welfare concerns.
Prior to moving to France and meeting Gainsbourg, Birkin was married to the British composer John Barry until the late 1960s.
Jane Birkin holding her trademark bag
IMAGE SOURCE,GETTY IMAGES
The Birkin bag was designed to her personal preferences
Their daughter, Kate Barry, was a fashion photographer who worked for Vogue and died in 2013 at the age of 46.
Birkin has a third daughter – the musician, model and actress Lou Doillon – from her 1980s relationship with French film director Jacques Doillon.
Birkin’s acting credits included films such as the 1966 classic Blow Up, Death on the Nile (1978) and Evil Under the Sun (1982).
She released a self-penned album in 2002 called Arabesque and a collection of live recordings in 2009 under the title Jane at the Palace.
Menna Rawlings, the British ambassador to France, paid tribute to her on Twitter, describing her as “the most French of British artists”.
French President Emmanuel Macron described Birkin as a “French icon” and a “complete artist” who “bequeaths us tunes and images that will never leave us”.
France’s Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne also paid tribute, saying: “Through her music and her talent, she transcended generations.”
She was treated for leukaemia in the late 1990s and it was reported in September 2021 that she had suffered a stroke, forcing her to cancel a planned appearance at an American film festival.