Jane Birkin wearing che veste shorts by Vicky Tiel, 1971 – Photo by M. McKeown courtesy Vicky Tiel
Jane and I were two princesses of the 60s hanging out all night at Chez Castel on 15 Rue Princess wearing the first hot pants, bras, and jumpsuits. We both had gorgeous men that we lived with for years (we were both unmarried ), and we both danced for hours chez Castel often till dawn, shaking our boobies while we “wiggled down on our men,” giggling and shaking our arms on the dance floor. We created a hot new dance, and the other hot Castel couples soon followed.
Then we invented the pile-up – called BOUM – where after shaking up and down as we fell on top of our men on the floor, and everyone followed until we had a pile of bodies a mile high wiggling in place until the song stopped. Sometimes we were 50 people, bodies filling the entire dance floor.
Chez Castel Nightclub – Photo Vicky Tiel
Chez Castel was THE private club of Europe, and to be a member, you had to be famous, not rich, just renowned. It was a great way to meet the beautiful people Delon, Belmondo, Bardot, Deneuve, and Mick Jagger before a “Bonjour.” The Beatles even performed there in a small private room in 1965, and they stayed up all night doing who knows what.
Partying with Chez Castel got so renowned that I got hired there by producer Dick Sylbert to do the costumes of « What’s New Pussycat « on the dance floor with Jane Birkin and Mia Fonssagrives as we turned all the heads with our bodies and our fashion.
Jane, who lived on 5 Rue de Verneuil, two blocks from our shop, “became one of my first clients in the shop we called MIA VICKY on 21 Rue Bonaparte (now the name of my perfume). A frequent shopper, Jane also bought the first pair of knit mini shorts when we opened in August 1968.
Vicky sketch of Jane from my book 100 WOMEN ( celebs that I dressed)
They were recognized by a rose embroidered on the side and were the first shorts sold in Paris. Jane also was known for wearing our navy velvet cape made to wear in the daytime in the winter over the navy knit shorts we then called hot pants. She turned heads as capes went out in the 1900s.
The biggest claim to fame of the English beauty Jane Birkin was not any movie, but was her song in 1965 with her then lover Serge Gainsbourg who wrote MOI N’EN PLUS …where they make the sounds of having sex and then an orgasm that lasts forever.
The song Serge originally wrote for Brigitte Bardot was definitely better with his English-French girlfriend, Jane, and became one of the greatest French songs in their musical history. It also created a feud between the two fabulous women, and Serge chose Jane, much to the chagrin of Bardot. Serge was no beauty (no Alain Delon), but he must have had something besides a voice.
Serge’s and Jane’s home – Photo Vicky Tiel
The home of Serge and Jane became a national monument where tourists come from all over the world to sign the wall in front of the ground floor residence. Like the Beatles in London, Jane and Serge in France represented the hot sixties.
Today, Jane is most known for her Hermès Birkin bag, but to those of us Parisiennes over 75, Jane is best known for the song JE T’AIME MOI N’ON PLUS.
Last year I saw Jane in the cafe she hung out in near our market, Rue de Buci having breakfast Sunday morning. We were both in our late seventies and looking it (now without hot pants ), and we both nodded and smiled and remembered those great dancing days, chez Castel. At least I did.
She was a true Parisienne icon.
Forever Jane! – By Marilyn Kirschner
Jane Birkin – Photo by Bestimage
Jane had more style in her little finger than most of the Birkin toting women who are clueless about what true style really is. Those who immediately jumped on the Birkin bag connection with posts of their own Birkins, or made comments about owning many Birkins, when news of Jane’s passing was made public, are woefully missing the point.
Jane was not defined by her Birkins. They were, for Jane, durable and practical objects which she personalized and toted around with insouciance, rather than the ultimate status symbol they have become.
Cardi B shows off her massive collection of Birkin Bags – Photo PageSix
Quite frankly, when I think of Hermes Birkin bags, what does not instantly come to mind is the ever chic, slightly bohemian, Jane, who was gifted 4 Birkins (one at a time) and auctioned them off for charity. Rather, I envision celebrities flaunting their wealth with pictures of enormous walk in closets filled with rows and rows of Birkins in every color and exotic fabric imaginable.
“It’s very nice that everyone’s got one or wants one. I keep saying to Hermès to make it out of plastic or, even more fun, make it out of cardboard. Then it wouldn’t be so heavy. But if people want to go for the real thing, fine. If they go for copies, that’s fine too”Jane Birkin
Cardboard Birkin Bag – Photo Pinterest
In honor of Jane, I went searching for a cardboard Birkin. While I did not find one, I did see that an enterprising individual posted an image of a cardboard Birkin mock up on Pinterest saying he/she was going to make one someday.
Plage Terry Bicolore Tote – Photo zitomer.com
I think Jane would have definitely appreciated the Plage Terry BiColore Totes, priced at $380 and available at Zitomer Pharmacy, 969 Madison avenue, 212 937 5560, zitomer.com.
Jelly Birkin – Photo craftyrebels.com
There’s no question that Jane, an activist who was very involved with women’s and LGBTQ rights, would have approved of Crafty Rebel’s cheeky Jelly Birkin bags priced from $80 – $100. Offered in rainbow stripes and in several solid colors, they are customizable but will always say “Birkin My Ass” if you can’t define a phrase. For more information, go to craftyrebels.com
Of course, Jane was most often associated with a favored $10 Portuguese straw bag which she carried year round and took everywhere (to the beach, out to dinner, shopping, etc.) in the late 60’s and early 70’s. MME. MINK’s LadyJane “Birk Basket,” $445, mmemink.com, is hands down, the most distinctive recreation I’ve seen.
MME.MINK was recently named “The Birkin of Basket” and Jan Haedrich (AKA MME. MINK), has an intimate connection with Jane. The two met while Jan was designing in France and she is forever inspired by Birkin’s love of simplicity. The first basket Jan designed when she launched MME MINK in 2019 was named “LadyJane”, Birkin’s nickname.
Birkin didn’t feel the need to change her bag, or outfits every day. She had nothing to prove to the paparazzi then, and she had nothing to prove to anyone as she got older. There are so many indelible images of Jane as a divine young ingénue, and so much was written about her earlier years, but what really intrigues me is the way Jane aged; “Wabi-Sabi” comes to mind.
In traditional Japanese aesthetics, Wabi-Sabi is the celebration of the passage of time and its sublime damages; the appreciation of beauty that is imperfect and transient. Instead of bowing to societal pressures and striving to hold on to her kittenish youth, Jane aged unselfconsciously with grace and confidence.
She cut her hair, went make up free, eschewed plastic surgery, and embraced a certain tomboyish chic. I love that in 2009, she told WWD, “I’d rather be dressed as a man. As soon as I’m in boys’ things I feel like I’m 12 again. I’ll go on tour in a white shirt and waistcoat.”