Jane Birkin, the British-French singer and actress whose collaboration with the artist Serge Gainsbourg made her a defining figure of the 1970s and whose personal style inspired a luxury handbag, died on Sunday in Paris. She was 76.
Her death was confirmed by President Emmanuel Macron of France, who called her a “French icon” in a message posted on Twitter. The French news media reported that Mrs. Birkin was found dead at her home but that the cause was not immediately known.
It was Ms. Birkin’s personal and artistic relationship with Mr. Gainsbourg that made her famous abroad, especially after their 1969 hit song “Je t’aime… moi non plus” (“I Love You… Me Neither”). In the United States, Ms. Birkin was mostly known for lending her name to the famous Hermès handbags, status symbols with a distinct strap clasp and signature buckle.
Jane Mallory Birkin was born in London on December 14, 1946, to the actress Judy Campbell and Cmdr. David Birkin of the Royal Navy. But it was her years in France that made her famous and established her as the embodiment of Parisian chic.
Among her first acting roles was The Blonde in the 1966 film “Blow-Up” by Michelangelo Antonioni. It was two years later, on a film set, that Ms. Birkin met Mr. Gainsbourg, beginning a love affair that would last 12 years and captivate France.
Their erotic duet “Je t’aime… moi non plus”, whose lyrics are punctuated by Ms Birkin’s breathy moans, was seen as exemplifying the sexual revolution of the 1960s. It was condemned by the Vatican.
After the breakup of the Gainsbourg relationship in 1981, Ms. Birkin continued to sing and act, including in films by Agnès Varda and Patrice Chéreau. In 1983, she released the album “Baby Alone in Babylone”, which included music and lyrics by Mr. Gainsbourg.
Mr. Gainsbourg, a director and composer whose music helped pioneer contemporary French pop music, died aged 62 in 1991.
“He wrote for me from 1968 until the day he died,” Ms. Birkin said in an interview with The New York Times in 2018. “Why he kept asking me to perform the songs that inspired me, I don’t know — but perhaps he knew I would be faithful to at least that.”
Ms. Birkin’s gamin look and carefree bohemian manner have passed through generations of the style conscious and inspired the expensive and highly coveted Hermès Birkin bag.
“I’d like to be a decent person and wear a Kelly,” she said in a 2018 YouTube interview, referring to the ladies’ handbag created and named after movie star Grace Kelly. “But I never thought you could get enough of it.”
The collaboration with Hermès, the French luxury house, began after its chief executive, Jean-Louis Dumas, saw Ms. Birkin struggling with a straw basket on a flight to London, its contents spilling onto the floor. Ms Birkin said she could not find a leather bag she liked. Hermès came up with the Birkin, which was, as she requested, “four times the size of Kelly.”
Ms. Birkin was additionally popular in France as an activist for women’s and LGBTQ rights and also for her British accent when speaking French, which the French found charming.
“The most Parisian of the English left us,” the mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo, wrote in a message on Twitter. “We will never forget her songs, her laughs and her incomparable accent that always accompanied us.”
Ms. Birkin suffered a mild stroke in 2021 and recently canceled a series of concerts due to health issues.
She is survived by two daughters she had with Mr. Gainsbourg and the French film director Jacques Doillon: the singer-actresses Charlotte Gainsbourg and Lou Doillon, each of whom, like their mother, inspired designers and followers of fashion.
Guy Trebay contributed reporting from New York.