Today’s installment of the series centers on a legendary and marquee fashion icon that has evolved into a silver fox. This might be your first meeting but, for those who are short on fashion history, his name is Tony Spinelli and it is his image that is emblematic of men’s fashion via the highest echelons of international design. These images and his person have graced every form of media while being the subject of some of the greatest photographers of the twentieth century and so his resume reads like a who’s who of the world of fashion.
He is one of the extremely rare and blessed men who achieved an international presence; his colleagues and collaborators have included Horst, Scavullo, Avedon, Newton, Bassman, Penn, van Wangenheim, Polly Mellen, Harry King, Way Bandy, Mario Valentino, Halston and Gianni Versace. He has taken starring roles on the runways of the world and on the printed page of every leading publication for men and women including GQ, when it was the premier men’s fashion publication, UOMO Vogue, Vogue, and Esquire.
If the term super model, a term that is personally loathsome, was in the fashion dictionary of the ‘70s and ‘80s, then his photo would appear to its right. Here he is today in his own words:
Jeffrey Felner: What is the most treasured possession in your wardrobe?
Tony Spinelli: My Armani tux, white tie of course, is amongst my favorites but I love to dress for any occasion. Elegance is always key and I expect that you do the same.
JF: What is your most sterling trait?
TS: If I do say so myself it is my personality; the character trait has definitely opened doors for me as well as sealed the deal more than once. Too many young people think it is only about looks but there is so much more than just a book that only shows you off in front of camera but looks don’t reveal how you interact with others.
JF: What is your guilty secret?
TS: I am absolutely never ever satisfied as I always believe there is room for improvement. There is always something more that one can give to a project, job or assignment. I believe that this part of me is why I achieved and earned my reputation and standing within the international fashion community.
JF: What’s your advice to the newbie?
TS: The best advice and you best learn it quickly is how to deal with rejection. Again, you have to use your personality as a tool and it helps to win a client. You must never give up, you must take chances and be different from the rest, in other words don’t be one of the crowd. It is just as easy to stand out as it is to blend in.
JF: Who is your favorite designer or ideal subject?
TS: Gianni Versace, Giorgio Armani, Dolce & Gabbana & Hugo Boss are only some of the designers that I favor. Having worked for some of these guys has helped me develop my own personal style which usually involves the pleasure I get from wearing a greatly tailored jacket.
JF: In 3 words or less, describe the current state of fashion.
TS: It is not my style at all, there seems to be too much sameness and not enough of those models who stand out as individuals. This trend of the very young boys who look like they need to eat a meal t or the boys with too much facial hair doesn’t sit well with me and certainly not part of how I grew up in the business.
JF: If you could, would you ever approach one of your peers to employ; who would it be and why?
TS: There are so many to choose from, Halston being at the top of my list because e he is one designer who demanded excellence and got it. He was a wonderful designer for the social set and a great teacher for me. Please remember that I did all the Z14 ads for the men’s cologne so I do know first-hand about his ethic
JF: If you could invite up to 4 people for dinner, who would they be…dead or alive?
TS: Dick Avedon, Polly Mellen, Yves Saint Laurent and Coco Chanel top off my list as they were all ahead of the game. These people didn’t wait to be told what the trend was, they invented trends, they dared to be different and they all had the skill set and passion to accomplish greatness.
JF: Whose opinion do you value most?
TS: It is so interesting to me that I love to hear the opinions of the older and wiser crowd such as my interviewer here. They’ve been here and done that and are still here to tell the tales of how it was and not how we might perceive it to have happened.
JF: What store or which designer do you most like to shop in or wear?
TS: I am most at home at Barney’s New York since they have everything that anyone could possibly need, they cover a lot of looks as well as the best designers from around the world. It is interesting for me to even just look around and see what all these designers are offering.
TS: Do you have a dream collaborator?
Giorgio Armani would be the ultimate choice because I think he understands men and only pushes fashion so far without getting too crazy. When I wear his clothes I am totally comfortable, totally relaxed and if it was possible I would love to stand in front of a camera for any of his products.
JF: Who is your perfect dinner companion?
TS: When Casa Spinelli is filled with friends and family which happens to be almost every Sunday. Being Italian, family is part of what makes us who we are and what we have made of ourselves. I love this family thing because it takes me back and makes me look ahead.