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Style icon: Jane Birkin

When you think of style icons that have truly shaped how we dress today, few people have been more influential than the legendary Jane Birkin. Let's face it, without Jane Birkin there would have been no Alexa Chung.

 

Arguably one of the first street style stars, Birkin was known all over the world for her uncomplicated bohemian elegance. Being one of the most beautiful women in the world certainly helped (I think we can all agree Birkin is one of those few women who would look amazing even in a bin bag), yet she managed to nail an effortlessly laid-back chic which was both of-the-time and timeless. No wonder she has a Hermès bag named after her.

Birkin first arrived on the scene in the 60s, appearing in the 1966 film Blowup, and went on to work with the likes of Bridget Bardot, director Jacques Rivette and her creative and romantic partner of many years, Serge Gainsbourg, with whom she released her most iconic musical piece to date: Je t'aime... moi non plus.

What made Birkin a household name, though, was a chance encounter on a flight with the then Chief Executive of Hermes, Jean-Louis Deman. As Birkin tried to fit her straw bag in an over head locker, she lamented that she was yet to find a leather weekend bag she liked enough. So Deman made her one. In 1984, the now iconic Birkin bag was born, ranking up with Chanel's 2.55 and Mulberry's Bayswater as one of the most iconic handbags of all time. Now that's a legacy.

Her uncomplicated style is characterised by high-waisted jeans, short hemlines and loose fitting tops. Her wardrobe reads like a copy of A Guide to the Pieces Every Stylish Woman Must Own: cuffed t-shirts, chunky polo necks and delicate gold jewellery as well as thigh high boots, lace dresses and Mary Jane pumps. Birkin never felt overdone with her love of unfussy and classic shapes which allowed the English-born actress to exude a certain Je nes sais quoi. She just had a look that felt very French. Is it any wonder she later relocated to Paris?

Birkin's look is simple to encapsulate. It has all the key notes of the 60s and 70s without her choices ever feeling like period pieces. In short, you're never going to look like you're off to a fancy dress party when channelling Jane Birkin as your style muse. Her influence is insidious with both independent designers and high street giants who continue to turn out pieces influenced by her: simple chains, chunky knits and the enduring popularity of the pea coat. That's Jane Birkin.

Get the look: 1 Moto Indigo acid wash Mom jeans, £40, Topshop; 2 Hitch pendant necklace, £177, Jane Gowans; 3 5279 1444/S5 sunglasses, £222, Chanel; 4 Emi black boots, £175, Miista; 5 White crochet tunic, £12, Dorothy Perkins; 6 Cashmere turtle-neck sweater, £49.90, Uniqlo

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