Spinelli Kilcollin’s signature design of interconnected hoops is groundbreaking in its invention and simplicity. With the recent surge in the fine jewelry sector, the collection’s breakout popularity and critical acclaim from press, buyers, and customers has been an inspirational and organic success that designers only dream of. Handcrafted by Yves Spinelli in Los Angeles, Spinelli Kilcollin has ushered in a new class of minimalism in fine jewelry. The architectural and streamlined collection was born with Galaxy rings, which can be stacked on one finger or worn across multiple, created exclusively for LA luxury retail legend Maxfield. Spinelli Kilcollin has grown to encompass a full range of rings, bangles, earrings, necklaces, and dedicated men’s pieces that include precious materials, diamonds, and colored stones.
We first had the pleasure of meeting Yves when he invited us to his hilltop home and studio in LA on a muggy July afternoon. It was like meeting an old friend! We observed firsthand the level of intricacy and skill that goes into each piece and learned that Yves first began studying and making jewelry while attending high school in Hawaii. His path hasn’t been linear, a common thread uniting many of the Jewelers we feature, but this diversity lends Spinelli Kilcollin the multidimensional quality and aesthetic that has made the jewelry a new cult classic. In Paris, we reconnected with Yves in the stunning apartment where he shows his collection on rue Molière near the Palais Royal for a look at his latest collection and candid conversation about his life and career. -Jenna Fain for The Stone Set
“My parents are hairstylists, and I literally grew up in their hair salon in Hawaii. My father worked in New York in the 70s and 80s with some very iconic stylists, so I was exposed to luxury fashion from a young age. I took some jewelry classes in high school – we were fortunate enough to have a jewelry lab on campus – but had no idea that I’d make a career out of it! I moved to Los Angeles in 1997 to play music, and applied for a job at Maxfield the first week that I was here. I started as a cashier, and left in 2009 as a store manager.
I learned so much about the luxury market working at Maxfield. Owner Tommy Perse had a very strong point of view, and we worked with some of the best designers in the world. Maxfield carried pieces that were truly collectible, beautifully crafted, completely original, and years ahead of their time. The owner didn’t base the buying strictly on sell-throughs—he supported designers that he believed in, and partnered with them even though clients were sometimes slow to understand. I learned that great design and meticulous craft are really timeless and will outlive any trend. I’ve held our brand to this standard from the beginning.
I love the permanence of fine jewelry. There’s an ancient tradition of adornment that is amazing. It’s incredible to go into a museum and see pieces that are thousands of years old. Jewelry is very personal. You become emotionally attached to your pieces. They take on a certain energy, and can literally be worn every day with every outfit—I have friends who sleep in their jewelry! Fine jewelry is treated as a heirloom, passed along to family and close friends.
I love the solid form and structure of precious metals and stones. Diamonds are one of the oldest minerals on earth, some dating back over three billion years. That’s mind-blowing. I was working at Maxfield in 2008, and I had an idea for a ring that I wanted to start wearing that was a series of connected bands that could cover three fingers and still allow flexibility and movement.
My father had worked as a blacksmith in Italy, and was making jewelry as a hobby, so I asked him to make my ring. He decided to add two more bands, and we realized that my multi-finger ring could also be worn stacked on one finger. The first day I wore my ring to work, a woman asked me who designed it because she wanted to buy one. I called my father in Hawaii and asked him to make four more sets. I met the woman a few weeks later, and sold my first ring. The others were sold two weeks later.
A funny side note is that I have never seen that woman again, but she literally has the second ring Galaxy ring prototype. I met Dwyer Kilcollin shortly thereafter, and Spinelli Kilcollin was officially started a year later when we launched with a small collection of connected rings at Maxfield in 2010.
Our brand has evolved a lot since then growing that original concept, and launched into fine jewelry in 2012. We continue to refine and explore the multiple combinations of the Galaxy rings, and we have started to develop new categories of bangles, chains, and earrings using that same concept.
The most popular pieces in our collection are the Vega SG, Nexus, and Sonny rings. The most interesting thing about this is that each one of these began as a custom design for a close friend. The Nexus was a ring that we designed for Dwyer to wear personally, and it was finished right before NY Fashion Week last September. One of my first press appointments that season was with O, The Oprah Magazine, and the editors pulled Dwyer’s ring as a sample to show Oprah. I received a call the next day that Oprah was in love with the ring and wanted to wear it on the January cover! There’s definitely a great energy to that ring, because it has since become our best-seller.
Each of our rings has a story to them, and I think that gives them all different personalities. Dwyer Kilcollin and I got engaged this year, and I designed a custom linked engagement ring that she now wears every day. I wear the original ring that my father made nearly every day since 2008, and I’ve named it Aquarius after my sun sign. It means a lot to me, and I feel almost naked if I don’t have it on.
There have been quite a lot of standout moments, and I am a sentimental person. Here are some of the most important ones to me:
• Getting our first order – and it was Maxfield! I had left the store a year prior, but I had started working there as a cashier when I was 22 years old. Maxfield is an important part of my history, and seeing our collection in there is hugely meaningful.
• We made our very first full pave Galaxy Ring for Ikram in early 2013. She loved my all silver Aquarius ring, but said that she wanted one for her “covered in diamonds.” We drafted our first pave concept and signature mix of brown and white diamonds. Ikram flipped when she received the ring, and told us that we needed to commit to solely designing fine jewelry—this would be the future of our brand, and we would be huge. She immediately called Sally Singer, and two weeks later we had our first press…on Vogue Daily, nonetheless!
• Seeing our jewelry for the first time in Vogue was pretty momentous. It was a stunning two-page spread on Lupita N’yongo, and she was wearing the first connected bangles that we ever made.
• Our first magazine cover was Oprah wearing our Nexus ring lying next to a lion! That rates pretty high on the list.
• I used to walk into Barneys and visualize our jewelry in the cases, with our name printed on the metal plaque. Getting our first Barneys order, and walking in to see that become a reality was an amazing moment.
I’ve learned to set a clear vision for your brand and stay with it. Take a strong point of view, and commit to what you are doing. If you believe in your work, you’ll work hard to bring it to fruition. Well-meaning people will give you advice that you should absolutely listen to and learn from, but it needs to align with what you believe in. Two people won’t have the exact same experience, and there are endless ways to achieve your goal. You also need to be flexible and reactive in business. If you have a clear plan, then it’s easier to stay on course.
I’ve had a clear vision for our distribution from the beginning. I held out for the stores that I wanted to work with, and was confident that if we didn’t work with them this year, then we would next year, or even the year after. I would give this same advice to any small business: don’t be rash in any important decisions. It’s important to dream big—any success can be possible if you believe in it. My business is an extension of me, and I make it fun so that I’m excited to get into it every day. It’s one of the most rewarding feelings I’ve ever experienced.
One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned is the importance of meaningful relationships. It’s imperative to treat people with courtesy and kindness, and to try to understand everyone’s point of view. Every relationship should be a partnership.
There’s always the NY vs LA discussion amongst my friends in the fashion industry. New York is my favorite city in the world, and I’ve been going there since I was 10. But, LA is so much calmer, with so much more space to work in, and much more affordable. You have a chance to step back from the industry to detach and think about your direction and focus. I’ve been living in LA for almost 20 years, and it feels like home more than anywhere I’ve been. I combine the laid-back feel of my Hawaiian upbringing along with the excitement and opportunity of a big city. We live in the hills surrounding by coyotes, hawks and owls, but can be downtown with our manufacturers in about 15 minutes. I love the sprawl and expanse of LA. I also love the sordid history, and the undercurrent of seediness. It’s a very interesting place, and very inspiring for me.
This has been such an amazing year – we have a lot in the pipeline. We’re excited to be launching a new group of chains at Barneys for Holiday 2015 that ties into our iconic linked rings—incorporating mixed colors of metals, diamonds and gauges. These got a great response from everyone when we premiered them at Couture Las Vegas.
We’ve started working with colored stones in a more meaningful way – rubies, emeralds, colored sapphires – and we’re going to be premiering these during Paris Fashion Week in October. We have new ring styles, as well as we’ve expanded our earrings and bracelets. There are two collaborations that we are debuting for Fall 2015, though I can’t share too much about them just yet. This is the first time that we have worked with other designers, and the whole experience has been so inspiring. We have such a clear focus when we are designing Spinelli Kilcollin, and incorporating another designer’s ideas is very liberating.” –Yves Spinelli of Spinelli Kilcollin
Photography by Emerald Carroll of The Stone Set