Serge Gainsbourg, 1968.
Serge Gainsbourg is somewhat of an icon in France. Having dabbled in nearly every genre of artistic endeavor, his titles include poet, screenwriter, director, actor, painter, writer, pianist, and composer, though he most undoubtably known for his work as a singer and a songwriter. His contributions to France’s entertainment industry are vast, and his scandalous life of women, nicotine and booze is the stuff of legend. Most were not say Serge was a classically handsome man––his looks are more akin to what you might call “striking.” However, his unaffectedly cool demeanor and his romantically poetic lifestyle attracted some of the most beautiful women in France, if not the most beautiful women in France. The women of Serge’s life were not only devastatingly gorgeous but were also celebrities in their own right as actresses, singers, and models. It seems as if Serge only associated with the best, and the women he surrounded himself with were absolute style icons of their time. Among the many are three women with whom Serge most famously (for better or worse) loved and collaborated with throughout his lifetime––Brigitte Bardot, Jane Birkin, and Caroline von Paulus. Chronicled below are the style highlights of Serge and his beautiful, talented and stylish beaus––on the town, in the studio, and at home.
Brigitte Bardot requires no introduction (with regard to her style or otherwise)––we are certainly all aware of her significance as a style icon. Of Serge and Bardot there are few pictures outside of ones taken on sets and in the studio. This is owed to the fact that Brigitte and Serge’s brief affair in 1967 was a highly clandestine one, having taken place while Bardot was still married to her third husband, Gunther Sachs. Serge is credited with reviving Bardot’s waning career as an actress, having led her towards her career in singing. In 1967 the pair recorded “Je t’aime...moi non plus,” a rather salacious track which Bardot begged not to have released for fear of revealing their affair (Serge later rerecorded the song with Jane Birkin). Brigitte and Serge recorded together again in1968 on the track “Bonnie and Clyde” and later that year he dedicated an album to her entitled “Initials BB.”
Brigitte and Serge in the film Voulez-vous danser avec moi?, 1959.
Brigitte and Serge on the set of Comic Strip, 1967.
Brigitte and Serge on set of the video for Bonnie and Clyde, 1968.
(L) Serge and Brigitte in a state of undress. (R) Serge and Brigitte in the studio.
As the namesake for the notorious Hermes bag, Jane Birkin, like Brigitte Bardot, has a solidified status in the history of style. As the story goes, she was flying from Paris to London in 1981 with her signature straw basket when its contents fell out onto the floor. While lamenting about the incident to her seat partner, she was unknowingly speaking to the chairman of Hermès himself––her complaints were filed and subsequently the Birkin bag was created. Aside from having fashion’s most iconic bag created in her name, Jane’s personal style defined a generation. Though she was English, the effortless way in which she wore her clothes felt entirely French. Birkin, initially an actress by profession, met Gainsbourg on the set of the movie Slogan in 1969 and the pair were together for thirteen years following (their daughter, actress Charlotte Gainsbourg, is rumored to have gone out to nightclubs with her parents when she was an infant, being toted around in her mother’s infamous basket). Serge and Jane recorded an album together in 1969 titles “Jane Birkin/Serge Gainsbourg,” with the rerecorded version of “Je t’aime...moi non plus” as the opening track.
(L) Paris, Photo by Tony Frank, 1968. (R) Jane and Serge out in Paris, April 1969.
(L) Jane and Serge on the beach in Cannes, 1969. (R) Jane and Serge wearing Cerruti at their Verneuil Street apartment in Paris, Photo by Nicolas Tikhomiroff, 1969.
(L) Jane Birkin/Serge Gainsbourg, Cover of their Self Titled Album, 1969. (R) Jane and Serge in the courtyard of the French National College of Fine Arts, Paris, 1969.
(L) Jane and Serge with newborn Charlotte, London, Photo by Tony Frank, 1971. (R) Walking about London, Photo by Tony Frank, 1971.
(L) Dancing at the Whisky a Gogo, Cannes, January 1972. (R) New Years Eve at Regine nightclub, Paris, 1977.
CAROLINE VON PAULUS AKA "BAMBOU"
Caroline, fondly nicknamed Bambou by Serge for her penchant for opium in the 80s, was Serge’s last love and was with him from the early 1980s until his death in 1991. Bambou, a model of Chinese and German decent, met Serge in 1980 at the L’Eyssée Montmartre in Paris. In 1981, she was the very nude subject of Serge’s photo book, Bambou et les poupées. Serge was instrumental in encouraging and launching her music career in the mid 80s with her first album Lulu (named after their son Lucien, Serge’s birth name). Bambou’s style was quite bold, but more subtly so than the typical 80s neon scrunchie and acid washed jeans sense. She was a fan of menswear, often seen wearing a pair of high waisted jeans, a men’s blazer and nothing else or oversized tops which barely hung off her thin frame. Bambou took an all or nothing (sometimes literally) approach to dressing. Bambou still lives in the apartment she shared with Lulu and Serge at the time of his passing.
(L) Bambou and Serge, 1981. (R) Cover of Serge's photobook of Bambou - Bambou et les poupées, 1981.
(L) Bambou, Charlotte Gainsbourg, and Serge, 1982. (R) Bambou and Serge at Cannes Film Festival, 1983.
(L) Bambou in recording studio with Serge, Paris, Photo by Tony Frank, 1986. (R-top) Bambou with son Lulu and Serge, Paris, Photo by Tony Frank, 1986. (R-bottom) Bambou with Serge, Photo by Tony Frank, Paris, 1986.