“April 2018 marks the tenth anniversary of my first linked ring, the Aquarius. It’s hard to believe that so much time has passed, and it’s equally hard to believe how far we’ve gone with something that was initially intended to only be my personal ring.
When I started working at Maxfield West Hollywood in June 1997, as a cashier, Tom Ford had just designed one of his first Gucci collections, Chrome Hearts only had small display case at the back of the store, e-commerce was non-existent, and no customers knew the name ‘Hedi Slimane'. Eleven years later, in April of 2008, I had been promoted to be the store manager of Maxfield Bleu. There were exciting changes in those eleven years, but by 2008, I was feeling creatively restless. Inspired by the amazing clothing that we sold, I dreamed of having my own designs at Maxfield.
I made myself clothes from vintage jackets that I would wash, dye, re-cut, re-line, and sell to clients off of my back. Each piece took me several days to make, so although I loved doing it, working full-time made it difficult to really profit from my efforts.
My father, Antoine, lived in Hawaii, where he cut hair in the beauty salon Bottega Antoine that he had built in 1978. He loved his work, but he was also feeling creatively unfulfilled. We spoke on the phone often, discussing life philosophies and ideas, and one night he told me that he wanted to start making jewelry again. He was a self-taught jeweler, the son of a blacksmith, and had set up a jewelry bench in the back of his salon, but hadn’t made anything for several years. I got excited, and told him about an idea I had for a ring.
A customer had recently come into Maxfield Bleu wearing a three-finger ring that was a solid bar with a word engraved across the top. The ring was brass, and it was most likely meant to be ironic, but I liked it because it looked tough—almost like brass knuckles. I tried it on, hoping that I’d love it, but found it to be too uncomfortable and confining.
I told my dad that I would like to wear a silver ring across three fingers every day, and that it would need to be more comfortable to wear than a solid bar. What if all three rings were connected? It would allow you to move your fingers, and shouldn’t feel confining. My father said that he would see what he could create with silver wire. We have the same sized fingers, so anything that fit his hand would work for me. It seemed straightforward.
Except that my father’s favorite phrase is “break the rules.” It’s a life credo which he practices daily. He does things in his own way, which may or may not be the way that someone else wants him to do them. He’s a perfectionist, and seeks the best results, even if they’re not what was requested or expected.
So, when I received a package a few weeks later, I wasn’t too surprised to see that my three-link ring idea was now a five-link ring of bands of various thicknesses forged from heavy-gauge silver wire. I immediately phoned him—
My father had worked hard to create something amazing, and he expected me to love it just as much as he did. But I didn’t like wearing it on one finger—it was too much ring for my short fingers, and it felt cumbersome to wear.
Yves in 2008
It wasn’t the ring I had in mind, but it was weighty and tough, like a piece of machinery. At the same time, it was clean and elegant—a ring of just connected circles. It was beautiful in its simplicity and fascinating in its contradictions, and I absolutely wanted to wear it.
The ring became a magician’s puzzle, and I couldn’t resist playing with it. The moment I put the third band over my middle finger and stacked the two opposite bands on my index and ring fingers, everything made sense. Like magic, it fit perfectly and was immediately comforting. This was much better than my original idea. As per usual, my dad was right.
I wore my new ring to work every day—I couldn’t bear to take it off. I got a few confused looks at the grocery store, and when I went to buy new windshield wipers for my truck, the clerk at the Auto-Zone asked me if they were brass knuckles. I took that as a compliment.
About a week later, a stylish English woman shopping at Maxfield Bleu asked me who designed my ring. I told her, and she asked if I could make her one. I immediately said that I would. She was leaving the US soon, and would come back to the store in two weeks. Her name was Stephanie.
I called my dad and told him the good news. He was excited, but had no idea how to make a connected ring in a woman’s size. What if he made one that fit mom? Maybe that would work for the English lady.
My father made five more rings—two small sizes for a woman, and three bigger sizes for a man. See if you can sell more of them, he said.
True to her word, Stephanie came back to Maxfield Bleu two weeks later. The magician delivered again, and the ring fit perfectly. She told me that she didn’t wear jewelry, but that she loved this ring and planned to wear it every day. I’ve never seen her again, and have no contact information for her or even last name. I sometimes wonder if she’s discovered our brand in the years since.
Dwyer Kilcollin and I became a couple shortly thereafter, and I gave her the second, smaller-sized ring. I sold the other three within a few months. Dwyer and I wore these matching rings everywhere, and the intrigue that we generated led to a continual stream of orders. We decided that it was time to take a leap of faith and officially start a brand—and Spinelli Kilcollin was born.
We designed several variations of linked rings, in different thicknesses and configurations, and named them ‘Galaxy Rings’ because they evoked planets and orbits. The original ring is the Aquarius, named after my Sun sign. We officially launched our collection at Maxfield in 2010. While I no longer worked there, I was proud and thrilled to see my dream become reality.
Selling seven rings to an iconic store is a great start, but it’s barely the first step in creating a brand. We emptied our savings accounts, worked several day-jobs, turned our garage into an office, sold my record collection on eBay, and remained enthusiastic and creative—even when it seemed as though no one wanted to buy our work.
The road from those seven rings to where we are in 2018 is a long journey that I would like to write about one day. Every day, I am grateful for the privilege to continue creating it. It’s profound that one simple idea can change your life path, so long as you work hard for its fulfillment. I’m thankful for that idea, and for my father who helped to actualize it. I am proud of the brand that Dwyer and I have built, and ecstatic to be celebrating the ten year anniversary of the Aquarius ring.” -YS