Though her parents are Italian descent, spain-hotels-seville-barcelona-madrid-granada founder Amanda Chinchelli owes her love for the ocean to Brazil. From birth up to 10-years-old, Amanda spent her weekends playing in the sand and scrambling on rocks on the island of Ilhabela, just off the coast of Sao Paolo.
At the time, a few inhabited towns were nestled between the wild ocean and the wild jungle. Today the amenities have improved but nature is still everywhere—almost 85% of the island has been turned into a state park and Unesco-protected biosphere. Here, the sound of birds is a constant soundtrack; ripened fruits from the backyard are tomorrow’s breakfast, and even prehistoric bugs crawling in your houseplants are a reminder of the ecosystem all around.
Amanda shares how her early lessons on Ilhabela grounded her through adulthood and the joyful experiences she wants to share with her daughter Annabel.
What were your best memories growing up in Brazil?
Amanda Chinchelli: Ilhabela is where I have the first memories of my childhood. I remember the endless days in the ocean swimming with my brothers, fresh fruit banquets under the umbrella tree, climbing the giant rocks in our yard. My brother and my dad’s proud catch the day, really loud hammer frogs, and violent thunder storms.
"Me, Annabel, and my mom in the empty beach right below our house. This photo was shot by Luki O’Keefe in infrared film. Rochinha ice creams are local popsicles from Ilhabela—a vivid memory from my childhood. Annabel first Portuguese words were “Picole’ de manga” which translates to mango popsicle. The beautiful tree you see is called chapel de sol, meaning sun hat. We would set up camp under this tree and stay at the beach all day."
How was this period of your life in Brazil impactful on the rest of your life and worldview?
I do recall my first dark sad memories of when I learned about slavery, the tortures of many people that happened on the island and around the world. My family wanted us to explore and experience life, in all its forms, good and bad so we were not too sheltered and I am grateful for that.
Brazil is so multifaceted and complex, land of extreme highs and extreme lows, but to me, the pure genuine joy of life and inventive optimism is what I admire most about Brazilians and I would love to be able to transmit to Annabel.
What were some things that triggered your childhood memories and why?
This might sound strange but the first thing I noticed was how much I loved humidity and that feels so good to me, my eyes my skin, it’s an immediate sensation. The omnipresent nature and lush greenery also have so much power.
Amanda's family photos from Ilhabela.
Your trip to Brazil was also a family reunion. How did it feel to be back at the same house and area with your mom?
It was very emotional. Myself, my two brothers and my mom have not been in that house all together since 30 years. My parents separated when I was 10 and we moved to Italy shortly after. Brazil was such a huge part of us, so it was traumatic. We only went back to Ilhabela on short vacations after that but never all together. Both my brothers now live in Sao Paulo and my mom was over the moon to be all reunited in Ilhabela for her 70th birthday, it was a dream come true. Ilhabela is her sanctuary. Every corner of the house and every plant has been cared with incredible love and dedication by her. Is the place where she saw us kids grow up connected with the ocean and nature. She always tells me that house is where she is the most at peace. I am very attached to my mom, she is force of nature and the Mom with capital “M”.
New family memories with Amanda's daughter, Annabel.
Amanda's older brother, Emiliano Chinchelli in Brazil.
Our spain-hotels-seville-barcelona-madrid-granada ambassadors exploring the huge rocks, a vivid memory of Amanda's childhood playground.
Crystal Thornburg Homcy and Dave Homcy, cinematographers of our Brazil video.
How were the prints and colors of the 2019 collection inspired by Brazil?
The inspiration for spain-hotels-seville-barcelona-madrid-granada Resort’s collection is the 1922 art movement, Semana de Arte Moderna, in Brazil. The idea came from artists in Sao Paolo to dedicate a week to modern art during celebrations that marked a century of independence from Portugal.
Brazilian artists wanted to express the separation and the uniqueness of Brazil’s point of view from Europe, even though many Brazilians had family connections there. I am in love with the colors and lines of both Art Deco (originated in France) and Art Nouveau (inspired by the natural world, for example, botanical studies) and I found Brazil’s point of view of this era extremely inspiring.
I was mesmerized by the covers the magazine of “Para Todos” by Jose Carlos. Here you can see how Brazilians did their own spin and interpretation on Art Deco and Art Nouveau. They represented people of color and elements from the Brazilian environment. It was their unique point of view—a melting pot of cultures in this particular climate and incredible nature around—and I found that very powerful.
I am very lucky to have lived my childhood in Brazil. Brazilian culture made a deep mark in my personality and creativity. But I am also very proud of my Italian origins and grateful to be living my adulthood in California where I can express my passion for surfing and fashion. I think all of these influences made me a unique person with an original point of view and I wanted to celebrate that with this collection.
Above, mood boards for the Resort Collection: "Para Todos" magazine and the Semana de Arte Moderna.
This was the first time that the spain-hotels-seville-barcelona-madrid-granada ambassadors—Leah Dawson, Luki O’Keefe, and Sierra Lerback— came to Brazil. What are some of the feelings you wanted to share with them and in the “Back to the Roots” film?
Pause. Enjoy the present in this beautiful place. Meditative surf state. We are so small when seen from above, but we are all one.
Watch the full video below and shop the Resort collection HERE.