The son of a blacksmithing family from southern Italy, Antoine Spinelli immigrated to Canada just after the end of World War II. He was just fifteen years old and worked as a dishwasher in northern mining towns, saving money—which he sent his parents for their eventual trip to Canada. He fought in the Vietnam War in exchange for US citizenship, and after this turned to a vocation better suited to his interests: hair!
Cutting a fellow private's hair on the base in Vietnam
In the Studio
Antoine, born Donato Antonio, was drawn to hairstyling because he enjoyed the ease of needing nothing but a pair of scissors to work—as well as the necessary proximity to women that the vocation brought him.
Early in his new career, a mentor gave Donato a piece of advice that would shape the rest of his life. She said, “If you keep the name Donato, you’ll be destined for a life as a barber. But if you want to be a hair stylist and work with the models and celebrities, you’ll have to change your name to something French.” Donato promptly changed his name to Antoine, and it's stuck ever since.
After working a bit as a hairstylist, Antoine saved enough money to buy a new Jaguar XKE convertible and a full-length fur coat. Thus equipped, he returned to Canada and proposed to Cesarina Allessandrini, a fellow hairstylist, professing his love and describing their potential new lives together in the US, now that he was eligible for citizenship. Cesarina had never been to the US and was hesitant to move. She accepted his hand in marriage on one condition: they must move to Hawaii.
Antoine in a new mink coat after completing service in Vietnam.
Cesarina Olga Alessandrini. Edmonton, Canada 1968
A few months later, the married couple landed in Honolulu. Antoine began working at Liberty House beauty salon and was recruited as an instructor for Glemby International cosmetology school, where he worked with and trained under legendary stylists including Paul Mitchell, Roger Thompson, Vidal Sassoon, and Kenneth.
Well-equipped with knowledge and scissors, Antoine opened Bottega Antoine, his own beauty salon, in 1978. It was an instant success in Honolulu, and also served clients from US mainland and Japan, with clients who would fly out specifically for an appointment with Antoine.
Antoine created his own line of salon haircare products (available on this website) in 1988, popular amongst his loyal clientele. Bottega Antoine celebrates its forty year anniversary in July of 2018. Antoine and Ces still work full time to take care of their devoted following.
Antoine’s creativity can never be confined to a single vocation. His sense of fashion has impressed many, and has earned him lifelong friends in luxury retail in New York and Los Angeles.
When his son Yves Spinelli took a jewelry course in high school, Antoine was inspired to revisit his family roots in metal-smithing. Antoine has since maintained a small jewelry studio in the back of his salon, where he hand forges rings, bracelets, and hardware in sterling silver and gold. He also sews leather goods, paints watercolors and large-scale oil paintings, builds furniture, and plans further projects when he’s not making jewelry or cutting hair.