Lauren Hutton Is Wildly Beautiful Modeling This Creature-Inspired Cartier Collection
It was the right place, the right time, the right jewelry, and the right girl when select pieces from the Cartier Collection, bound for the American Museum of Natural History, ended up on icon and animal conservationist Lauren Hutton. Set to appear in the upcoming "Beautiful Creatures: Jewelry Inspired by the Animal Kingdom" exhibit in NYC, these works of art (legends in their own right among bijoux enthusiasts) were all together in the wild for the first time — that is, outside of a case in an exhibition.
VIDEO: Lauren Hutton on How to Be a Badass Woman
"When I saw the jewelry all spread out, there were about seven bodyguards around it, and they looked a little afraid of me because I just charged in, grabbed the snake by the head, and said, 'Wow! Look at this!' " says Hutton, recalling her animated arrival at our shoot. The snake she's referring to is a custom articulated snake necklace made in platinum, white gold, and yellow gold with 2,473 diamonds.
It was commissioned in 1968 by Mexican film goddess María Félix, one of Cartier's most famous clients and the original owner of the turquoise snake earrings and the double crocodile necklace Hutton is seen wearing above. The story goes that Félix brought a live baby crocodile to the Cartier boutique in Paris to serve as inspiration for the necklace, but she warned the team that they must act quickly because the creature would soon reach its full size. La Doña, as Félix was also known, seems like a kindred spirit to Hutton. "I'm learning everything I can about her now," she says. "Talk about a badass."
In Hutton's personal life, the only jewelry she wears daily (a ring converted from an antique stickpin that her godfather gave her) is tied to her earliest memory from when she was around 2. "My godfather was throwing me up in the air, and I remember going as high as the chandelier, he was smiling at me, and my mother and his wife were in the corner mewling like a couple of cats, 'No! Don't!' But he was not even hearing them," she says. "I just remember my brain at that moment thinking, 'Power. The short hairs wearing pants have it; the long hairs in dresses don't.' " It would seem that very early memory set the course for how she'd ultimately live her life. "One of the first things I noticed was that the men had the most fun."
At 77, Hutton says fun is her guiding principle these days, and the natural world is her main source of inspiration. "People get really crazy about fashion, and that's just because they think they're going to find some new information," she says. "I took my rules and all my ideas of what beauty was from nature because that's what I loved first." Despite her decades-long modeling and acting career (she's credited with revolutionizing the modeling industry as the first person to land a million-dollar cosmetics contract), her biggest joys come from her travels, particularly through her encounters with animals.
"I used to spend three months out of the year traveling in Africa, mostly in Tanzania but also in Ethiopia, Somalia, and Congo, and I really wigged out on wildlife," she says. "I've had these nanosecond smatterings of escaping death, particularly with animals, and those are the moments when I've learned the most. The biggest thrill in life is seeing how precious it is, when you come so close to just throwing it away by holding a crocodile's claw or something."
The crocodile in question was not a baby, not jeweled, and very real — in the late '70s an acquaintance found one fatally wounded on her property in Kenya near the Tanzanian border. Hutton was struck by the creature's feet, how tiny and delicate the scales were, and she couldn't resist "hunkering down to touch them." She suddenly heard her partner scream, jumped up, and felt a whoosh of air behind her. "The crocodile used its 8-foot pure-muscle tail to flip itself over and gnash at me," she says. "If I hadn't jumped, I definitely would have been killed. The best adventures," she adds, "are the ones you live out and live through."
Photographed by Mark Lim; Styling: Sam Broekema; Hair and makeup: Roberto Morelli; Manicure: Yuki Miyakawa; Set design: Elaine Winter.
For more stories like this, pick up the August 2021 issue of InStyle, available on newsstands, on Amazon, and for digital download July 16th.