Lauren Hutton: Role Model

Never the mindless mannequin, Lauren Hutton has long been famous for doing things her way. Now 65, she’s still at it — working the latest sleek, monochromatic styles for all they’re worth.
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Ask Lauren Hutton if she considers herself an icon, and she says, "Oh, what does that even mean?" Hutton — model, activist, entrepreneur, traveler, godmother to 23 — is not going to take someone else’s word for anything. Suggest that the term describes a person who has impressed herself on the public consciousness, socially, politically, culturally, and Hutton takes a drag off her handrolled cigarette and leans forward. "Well, that would be something," she says with a grin. Hutton’s own words for what she is: "A survivor."

Pollini jersey button-down shirt, $985, and jersey wide-leg pants, $915, pollini.com. Bruno Frisoni patent slingbacks, $610, Neiman Marcus, 888-888-4757. Kara by Kara Ross silver and rock crystal necklace, $205, thebreakers.com.

Born in Charleston, South Carolina, and raised in Florida, she was a skinny, gap-toothed girl who grew up playing in swamps and went on to enjoy one of the great modeling careers of all time. She was the first to land a $1 million cosmetics contract (with Revlon), and she has graced hundreds of magazine covers and acted in more than 30 films, most memorably American Gigolo).

Banana Republic silk satin dress with belt, $150, 888-277-8953. Diego Dolcini suede peep-toe heels, $660, diegodolcini.it. Vaubel for Jennifer Miller 18k green gold vermeil hoops, $395, 212-734-8199. Elsa Peretti for Tiffany & Co. 18k gold bracelet, $2,950, 800-526-0649. Donna Karan tights, $25, Nordstrom, 800-695-8000.

For her, the point of all this work was to fund her appetite for travel. "As soon as I knew there were people who were very different from me, I wanted to see who they were and how they lived," Hutton says. "I would go off to Peru or the Amazon or wherever. [Because I wasn’t always available for jobs], I was told I’d never work again. But it didn’t matter because a) I didn’t believe it; and b) travel changed my life. My face was always changing, from the inside."

Bottega Veneta shantung silk jacket, $1,950, shantung silk pants, $750, leather sandals, $430, and leather bag, $2,750, bottegaveneta.com for stores. Robert Lee Morris sterling silver ring, $125, 212-431-9405.

Hutton, who never married, runs a cosmetics company she founded in 2001 with $500,000 of her own money. Lauren Hutton Good Stuff, her line of makeup and skincare products formulated for over-40 women, is moisture-rich and comes in muted colors. "I like showing women how to make themselves look and feel better," she says. And she’s still an inspiration to designers: When Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen were creating their high-end clothing line, The Row, they asked Hutton to model the collection in early photos.

Diane von Furstenberg crinkle chiffon top, $225, Bergdorf Goodman, 800-558-1855. Calvin Klein Collection stretch rayon skirt, $450, 212-292-9000.

Tory Burch pebbled jacquard top, $395, and hemp skirt, $295, toryburch.com. Bruno Frisoni patent peep toe heels, $695, Ikram, 312-587-1000. Vaubel for Jennifer Miller 18k green gold vermeil hoops, $395, 212-734-8199.

Donna Karan New York cashmere-blend knit coat, $3,500, and cashmere-blend dress, $1,295, 866-240-4700. Patricia von Musulin lucite ring, $400, 800-243-5596.

Witty and profane, fiery but circumspect, Hutton meanders in conversation from tales of her travels ("I lived with nine hunter-gatherer tribes that don’t really exist anymore") to observations about her favorite historical figures (among them, Genghis Khan and Isaac Newton). She reviews the dangers she’s encountered over the years — including a near-fatal motorcycle accident in 2000 — with equal parts relief and irony. "Rattlesnakes, elephants, wars in Kampala, motorcycles, and men," she says. "I know all the things I’ve survived. It makes life very juicy and sweet and young again."

Banana Republic cashmere sweater, $250, 888-277-8953. Kenneth Cole New York cotton dress, $98, kennethcole.com. Marni leather and wood heels, $870, 212-343-3912. Robert Lee Morris sterling silver bracelet, $575, 212-431-9405.

Originally published in MORE magazine, December 2008/January 2009.

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