Interview | Jane Birkin

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We had 5 minutes with the incomparable Jane Birkin to chat about her upcoming Australian tour of ‘Jane Birkin Sings Serge Gainsbourg’ and life as a style icon. 

How would you describe the relationship you had with Serge?
Unique! He was unique; funny, in fact hilarious; dramatic Slav Jewish romantic; great battles; custard pies thrown; plunges in the Seine to be forgiven; too much drink; dottiness for animals; kids in the nightclubs in their Moses baskets; going to bed when the children woke up; exhilarating complicity in work doing musicals together; fun; tears; tyranny; generosity; drink; monotony of the clubs ’til 6 in the morning; separation faithfulness; truth; then a second life of being his muse and friend; and still standing on my kitchen chair and telling jokes! The latest ones: death… the joke’s over.

What do you think he would think of the show?
I think he’d be delighted, and very flattered that they are Japanese…

Why do you think Je T’aime Moi Non Plus caused the controversy it did?
It was banned by the Pope! It was considered the most “erotic” song ever (according to The Guardian) so it’s sort of normal that it caused a stir! The breathing made the theme fairly explicit! I don’t think that had ever been done before…

You have been a style icon to many for decades and still today, what do you think of style icons today? Do you think the criteria has changed?
I can’t believe I was an icon, I just did what I wanted. And yes, I had a few ideas like how to dress Serge and keep his five o’clock shadow! My mini skirts were shortened because I was English! No shoe laces, my basket, my bag; they were just so my way of living. I got away with going to night clubs in men’s “marcels”. That was 20 years ago and Marc Jacobs said it was an inspiration. When I was young, I had St Laurent for dressing up – I did dress up a lot! Now I wear men’s clothes; no make up; (and) cut my hair by Gabrielle, my best friend with the kitchen scissors. Getting to sad, beaten zones is where I can help a bit with a song. I’m happier doing that in the streets of Haiti than a flash show in Monte Carlo, but I do both! Bettering hospice schools is my chance in France to stick up for national health and schools, the priorities, prisons, anti-death penalty…

You are known for your work in Burma supporting a pacifist transition towards democracy, what drew you originally to the plight in Burma?
I met Aung San Suu Kyi, and thus inspired, I explained her plight to the French who didn’t really know her as she wasn’t a part of their history, as she was ours in England. Then I went to war with Total for aiding the junta for 20 years. After that, my engagement lasted ten years, with a happy end!

Why do you think the French welcomed you so openly? It seems almost uncharacteristic of them to adopt a Brit so eagerly…
I fell in love with Serge, madly, then with them. I was adopted, and am still paying back that unexpected love…