Improvised to Perfection

Inspiration from my father, Antoine

My parents opened their Bottega Antoine beauty salon
in Honolulu when I was three years old. My father taught himself how to install the plumbing, electrical wiring, drywalls, and he laid a perfect parquet teak wood floor on his first try. Always a perfectionist, my father agonizes over small details that others miss, and doesn’t trust anyone to do work the way he would.

I grew up in that salon. I did my homework in my father’s small office after school, swept hair, washed and folded towels, and fell asleep in the waiting area at night while my parents closed the books and prepared for the next day. My father passed his work ethic and positive can-do attitude to me through the example he showed me every day.

Bottega Antoine celebrated its 40 year anniversary at the same address earlier this year. My father still goes in five days a week, cutting and coloring hair at the same station he’s always had, standing on the same parquet floors he laid so long ago.

Antoine Spinelli has spent his life improvising. When I was a child, he told me that I could always have anything I wanted if I could see it unfold in my mind. He taught me “Creative Visualization” long before I read the book, or watched The Secret.

Literally born in the middle of an air raid, Antoine grew up in Ripacandida, a small Italian town that had been destroyed, in a country whose economy was devastated by war. The Spinelli men were blacksmiths, and as a boy Antoine practiced forgiatura in his father’s shop, hand-forging horseshoes, fence posts, door handles, and hinges. There was only enough money for essentials, so my father built his own toys.

After finishing eighth grade, my father boarded
a ship to Canada for a job as a dishwasher in the Northwest Territories to send money home to his parents. But, Antoine did not plan to be a dishwasher for long.
He discovered cutting hair would be his ideal career—
he could work anywhere, he only needed a comb, scissors, and his dedicated talent—and he could make people happy.

My father dreamed of living in America, so he moved to live with a distant relative in Chicago, bought some custom tailored sharkskin suits, started working in a beauty salon on Michigan Avenue, and applied for a green card. Then he was drafted into the Army. He served two years in Vietnam, became a citizen, got married, and moved to Honolulu where I was born.

Antoine Spinelli quickly became a local celebrity in Honolulu. He trained with top stylists in NYC, hung out at Studio 54 wearing avant-garde designers like Yohji Yamamoto, Comme Des Garcons, and Versace, and Bottega Antoine became the destination salon.

On weekends and in-between clients, my father sets up his humble, handmade jewelry workstation between the dryers, next to his espresso machine, in front of the sink where he was mixing hair color hours earlier. He pulls his torch, anvil, and polishing wheel from the corner and creates exquisite jewelry for private clients
in Honolulu. 

Antoine made our first group of interconnected Galaxy Rings in the backroom of Bottega Antoine ten years ago. When we officially became Spinelli Kilcollin, we realized that he was too busy cutting hair to produce our orders. We spent months working with jewelers in Los Angeles to replicate the quality of his work.

Antoine has continued to design and craft silver jewelry which he makes available privately to his clients in Honolulu, and I have always been adamant that his work should reach a larger audience. Earlier this year we partnered to make a ring collection available exclusively through our website, bringing us around full circle to the beginning of Spinelli Kilcollin.

Each ring is cut by hand from a solid sheet of silver, 3mm or 5mm thick, annealed, formed, and polished on Antoine’s workbench in the traditional forgiatura style that he learned from his father. I showed some pieces to our jewelers in Los Angeles, and they agreed that his patience and the precision he achieves by hand is unparalleled.

My father’s influence is foundational to Spinelli Kilcollin, and we’re dedicated to keep the soul and vision of his original work. I’m proud to be working with him again, and would like to think that I am carrying the Spinelli family tradition into the new century.

Written by Yves Spinelli