Meet Adette Contreras
ON HER MORNING ROUTINE
I’ve never been a morning person. I block two hours to read, meditate, drink green tea, write, and learn something new. I’m filling this time that I hate with things that I love. No social media, news, emails, or to-do lists. That’s for later. Mornings are for silence, learning, and reflection to gear up for the rest of my day. Then I shower in the dark with scented candles for soft light.
on growing up in the Philippines
The Philippines will always be home for me. My perspective and gratitude comes from seeing first-hand how bad it is for many people. I’m still baffled at how much food gets thrown out in the States. I think most Americans don’t know exactly how good we have it, and how quickly it can be taken away. Gratitude is a skill that isn’t taught to children here, and that was probably the biggest shock to me as a 10-year-old. That and the education system.
on moving to new york city and starting her career
I’m Manila-born, Chicago-raised, Brooklyn-based, and travel-bound. At around 10-11 years old, leaving my country and home, felt like betrayal. I eventually ended up in New York and found myself in advertising, trying to change how the media portrays women and people of color. Years later, I left the ad agency grind, founded two companies, and I feel like I’m just getting started.
on founding tinsel, an experiential design agency
Before founding Tinsel, I was a creative director in advertising and digital. With two friends from college, we decided it would be fun to start an events company. They planned and managed the events, and I was in charge of building the brand, designing a digital presence, creating financial projections, and mapping out a strategy to align with our vision. It was clear early on that experiential marketing would boom because of the ubiquity of social media. Now, we’ve got an all-star team and become a multi-million dollar company, growing tenfold in the last three years.
some advice for getting clients and work
What I learned as a young graphic and web designer is that, more often than not, the strategy behind the work hasn’t been fleshed out enough to create something impactful. When a strategy hasn’t been solidified, there isn’t a good foundation for success. Be unwaveringly loyal to your portfolio. Work your ass off, but keep in mind that you have no allegiances to any company: your book is the main priority. Make sure your early projects are challenging. Keep your eyes and camera open. That’s how you find inspiration. Organize your projects, photos, and library of typefaces and fonts so that you have files and assets you can pull from easily. Most importantly, seek mentors that will give honest and devastating feedback. Find people that inspire and make you feel uncomfortable with how quickly their minds work. Whenever you don’t know something, just ask. (But first, google.) Lastly, don’t be afraid of money.
on getting paid for creative work
An old tip from growing up in the Philippines: if they don’t negotiate, that means you didn’t charge enough. Get over the fear of talking about money. Early in my career, I asked creative directors what would be appropriate to charge. I even got a book about industry standards, though the NYC market rates are much higher, and I learned that I was undercharging. You’re charging for value, experience, and knowledge, not just the time it takes to complete a task. Pricing should reflect that and how much you want to work on the project.
on her tools for work and productivity
We do all websites: custom and templated. For a lot of our small business clients, a website from scratch doesn’t make sense because the cost-to-benefit isn’t worth the trouble, so we recommend using a CMS like ReadyMag and Squarespace to make editing quick and easy. Productivity apps I love are Asana, Toggl, Timepage, and automating (and color-coding) my life. My Moleskine notebooks, multi-colored Muji pens, and Delfonics pen pouches are always on me. They’re my tools for processing ideas, mapping out wireframes, and sketching logos.
on getting some perspective away from work
In my twenties, I worked my body into the concrete ground of NYC, and I thought that I’d rest when I’m done with work–which never happened. In hindsight, I would’ve saved myself a lot of pain if I stayed true to my nature. I feel most fulfilled when I’ve got a few things cookin’, whether that’s making ceramic bowls, learning a language, or traveling for a change in perspective. Getting perspective frees up time to be a human: a multi-faceted being with dreams and genuine connections–not just a work cyborg, in it for the grind and glory. I learned what allows me to function at my best and developed methods to work intelligently with what I’ve got. Now, I flow with my natural tendencies.
on her star sign
I was born on my dad’s birthday and named after him, an Aquarius architect. We’re supposed to be the weirdos of the zodiac. We are allegedly cerebral and known for having different interests, big into humanitarian efforts and wild, innovative ideas. We’re also stubborn and unpredictable. I agree with all the compliments and accusations.
on her beauty routine
I was gifted this Clé de Peau cleansing milk, and it’s incredible. I’m treating every drop like liquid gold. Also got some Tatcha beauty blots as swag, and they’re super handy to keep the shine away. Another gift I can’t get enough of is L’Occitane face cream. I love me some Nars, and I swear by their eye primer and all-in-one stick for a quick brush of color on cheeks and lips. For meeting-heavy days or event-heavy nights, it’s always a red lip for me. Currently wearing down my Tom Ford stick. I also recommend the Muji folding fan and Maison Martin Margiela Replica Perfume in Jazz Club.
on her haircare routine
I just let it air dry. The bangs get blow-drying action every other day to keep them in line. I’ve been experimenting with New Wash. I also recently learned what a blowout is. I also recommend Bumble and bumble Dry Shampoo.
adette's favorite books
Etcetera: Creating Beautiful Interiors with the Things You Love by Sibella Court, The Stylist's Guide to NYC by Sibella Court, Clay: Contemporary Ceramic Artisans by Amber Creswell Bell, Florence Broadhurst: Her Secret & Extraordinary Lives by Helen O'Neill, Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Cord, Ender’s Shadow by Orson Scott Cord, Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie, When the Elephants Dance by Tess Uriza Holthe, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay by Michael Chabon, Harry Potter by JK Rowling
adette's favorite movies & tv show
Coming to America (dir. John Landis), Boy (dir. Taika Waititi), Moonrise Kingdom (dir. Wes Anderson), Amelie (dir. Jean-Pierre Jeunet)
adette's favorite places IN new york city
Favorite restaurants: Nom Wah, Bien Cuit, Lucali’s, DiFara’s, St. Anselm, Colonia Verde, Vinegar Hill House, Hometown BBQ, Caracas, Mile End, Swell Dive, Glady’s, Buvette, The Fat Radish, Frankie’s, Stinky’s, Olmsted, Bunker
Favorite Street & Reading Bench: Verandah Place & Cobble Hill Park
Favorite Pool Tables: Amsterdam Billiards
Favorite Tattoo Artist: Stephanie Tamez at Saved Tattoo
Favorite Design Shop: MoMA Store (My dealer for HAY goods from Copenhagen.)
Favorite Farmer: Ingimundur Kjarval; He’s an old Icelandic guy
running a farm upstate, and we get all our meat from his farm.