photographed by priyanca rao
For these three best friends and business partners, the hardest thing about happy hour these days is keeping the conversation off work. But hey, when you’re busy running a buzzed-about event design shop in Brooklyn, it’s impossible not to be excited about concepting the next big thing for your clients. “It’s hard to turn off TINSEL,” explains Liz Castelli of TINSEL & TWINE, the company she founded with Adette Contreras and Erica Taylor in 2010. The three friends met while singing in an a cappella group at George Washington University back in 2003 (yes, we are obsessed with that and they were called “The Vibes”.) Since then, they’ve gone on to impressive individual careers in advertising and marketing, launched their own company together, and even seen their faces on bus stop ads in New York City. All while keeping their friendship in perfect three-part harmony.
Pictured: Adette (left), Liz (center), and Erica (right).
How long have you known each other? How did you meet?
Erica: The three of us met about twelve years ago. It’s pretty crazy to think about that amount of time.
Adette: Erica and I met because we both made it into an a cappella group in college. We shared the shuttle together every night after late rehearsals, singing together with the driver to old school jazz numbers. That same year, I met Liz in karate class.
Liz: She was always rushing to get to rehearsal for The Vibes. One night she told me about tryouts, and the rest is history!
That’s amazing. So if we asked you three to break out a song a cappella right now, what would it be?
Erica: Long car rides and karaoke dates call for Adele’s “Skyfall,” a lot of Billy Joel, a dedicated No Doubt set —
Liz: — and we do a mean “Jolene” by Dolly Parton.
Who would sing the high parts?
Adette: Liz and Erica sing in the higher registers. We like to mix it up, but I usually hold down the lower harmonies. Was an alto in college, but real talk: I’m probably down to a tenor range now.
So you’ve gone from collegiate songbirds to professional event planners together! Tell us what you love about running TINSEL & TWINE together, your Brooklyn-based event design firm:
Erica: It’s an incredible blessing to work with two of your best friends. Even when work is challenging, we still have ridiculous fun together. I also love that we’re constantly able to build and evolve our brand. We’re never standing still.
What’s the most challenging thing about working with your best friends?
Liz: Switching over to life conversations during finance meetings. Seriously.
Adette: We’re trying to be more conscientious about turning off the TINSEL-talk when we’re technically off the clock–slowly learning to ban business talk from dinner dates, brunch with our boys, and weekends away.
Adette Contreras, a graphic designer and creative director by trade, contributes her expertise in branding, marketing and digital design to TINSEL.
How would you describe Adette’s style?
Erica: Adette has grown into quite the bon vivant. She has a large appetite for good food, wine, and whiskey. She loves a great book, richly detailed clothes, and well designed furniture.
Liz: She’s a woman who loves mixing high end pieces with her findings from world travels. She loves a good collection of perfumes, teas, hats — all displayed in some pleasing configuration.
Erica: Yes. I would describe her style as “purposefully curated.”
Liz Castelli, the CFO of TINSEL, is responsible for all aspects of production — from concept to physical creation.
How would you describe Liz’s style?
Erica: She has a very sophisticated style that’s functional while being fashionable. Like any real New Yorker, she loves chic blacks and charcoal grays, but hers are usually accented with bold flower patterns, skulls, and her signature bleach-blonde hair.
Adette: Liz’s style is old Hollywood glamour with a touch of metal. She’s got an adventurous streak, so she isn’t afraid of a caftan or a bold lip color. She’s fearless in so many ways.
Erica: She’s the best dressed badass you’ll ever meet.
Erica Taylor, whose background is in advertising client service and business development, brings a strong marketing skill set to her role at TINSEL: making vendor connections, talking to prospective clients and promoting the brand.
How would you describe Erica’s style?
Liz: Pops of color, prints, and unapologetic sparkle. I love that she isn’t afraid to take chances and always looks pulled together.
Adette: Classic luxury with a twist. Every time I see a sequined dress paired with a fur shawl, I think of her. Though we’re all pretty much in the black-on-black-on-black NYC uniform, Erica employs bold pops of color like a skilled artist: bright blue eyeliner, TINSEL gold gloves, and an unexpected burst of power red are just a few examples of her exuberant way of dressing. That, and all the leopard print.
Every New Yorker needs a great handbag. Tell us about yours:
Liz (far left): People ask me about it all the time! It’s the best purchase I’ve made in a while – and it was completely out of my comfort zone. I don’t do bold color, prints, or anything non neutral – but I was channeling Erica and needed a backpack that looked good for meetings but was functional and able to carry my laptop, and tape measure, among other TINSEL requirements. It’s from Macy’s, Kenneth Cole – my sister got me back into shopping here.
Adette (center): This bag is actually a “friendship bag” with my friend Hosanna. In the same way that young girls make friendship bracelets, we figured that we should have friendship bags as grown women. She and I have a shared love of indie designers and well-curated boutiques in the city, so when we stumbled on these little AANDD bags, I got the black one, and she purchased one in truffle leather. They’re like butter.
Erica (far right): I try to travel light with smaller purses, but for long days of meetings, I usually carry a larger bag for notebooks, snacks, and a change of shoes. Of the three of us, I’m definitely the one for bold colors: red, blazing orange, warm yellow, cobalt blue, and leopard print!
How do you like to spend time together as friends? What do you typically talk about?
Erica: We are all big eaters, so we love going out for meals or having dinner parties in. We’re also all big travelers. We went on an epic trip to Nicaragua together last year and hope to add some stamps to our passports this year.
Liz: Eating and going on adventures. Eating while on adventures? We talk about everything from the correct protocol for logging receipts to concepting new ideas for clients. It’s hard to turn off TINSEL…
Adette: A lot of time is spent talking about what we’re going to eat next. (Only half joking.) Our conversations run the gamut, from where we’re adventuring next to books we’re reading now to when we’re yoga-ing this week. Right now, we’re talking a lot about what we call “Tinsel Birthday Season,” with all of our birthdays celebrated within a couple of weeks at the end of January and beginning of February.
The girls share food and wine at Cherchi Midi in Nolita.
Erica: As confirmed Francophiles, we love any spot that has an authentic French bistro feel. We’re big fans of red wine, steak frites, and gorgeous beaus artes tile work.
What type of wine do you drink?
Erica: All the wine! I love cabernets and cotes du rhones, but would not turn down a good rose in warmer weather or something sparkling for celebrations.
Liz: Right now, I love Spanish wine for casual drinking and a nice Bourgogne for something special –my husband and I spent some time at a gite in Burgundy a few summers ago and loved everything about it — but especially the region’s wine.
Adette: I’m generally either in a champagne or whiskey mood, but when I’m feeling like red, I often split a bottle of Côtes du Rhône with Liz and Erica.
What do you love about New York?
Adette: It’s breathtaking. It’s non-stop. It’s high-stakes. When something here works out, it works out in a big way, and that’s across everything: friendships, romances, careers, and adventures. There are so many different types of people from so many different cultural and professional backgrounds. This little girl from the Philippines has come a long way.
Erica: I love that there are always new people to meet, places to explore, things to do. And a part of me loves the hustle and struggle. It seems cliché to say, but with the way this city beats you down sometimes, if you can make it here, you’ll be golden anywhere!
We totally spotted you three in this cute DOT-NYC ad! How does it feel to have your faces on the bus stops in NYC?
Adette: How fun! I had heard about the launch of the new Dot-NYC domain because of my background in web design and tech. (Proud of my nerdy roots.) So when the opportunity came up to be a part of the founding group, we jumped at the chance to be involved. They loved us, so they decided that to put us on bus stops and news stands across the city. Getting emails from our friends that see them around town has been quite a treat. Reminds us that we’ve got a long way to go, but we’ve already accomplished so much together. TINSEL to the moon!
Liz: I kept thinking of the scene from SATC about riding the bus if you’re on the bus… It’s totally surreal and a very proud moment for the three of us!
Erica: And, so far, no obscene graffiti on the posters that we’ve seen.
That’s so much fun. And now, our traditional final question: where do you see each other in ten years?
Adette: Ten years from now, I see us living half the year in NYC and half the year somewhere else–and that doesn’t have to be just one “somewhere.” Paris, Manila, New Orleans… All of it. We’ll travel together with our families expanding our home goods line, while our talented team continues to produce amazing events throughout NYC and beyond.
Erica: Adette will be splitting her time between a brownstone in Brooklyn and a flat in Paris, spearheading TINSEL’s European branch. Liz will be chasing around her seven sets of twins while running a finance meeting from the top floor of our NYC offices.
Liz: As the same self-confident women we are today — only with a larger TINSEL.
We can’t wait to watch it all unfold. Cheers, ladies!