Scroll to top

10 MARCH 2023

Welcome to this week’s edition of Culture Wire, a newsletter brought to you by Singapore-based pop culture and lifestyle marketing agency Culture Group.

In this week’s edition:

  • Innovation of the Week: Trolled teenager fronts brand’s IWD campaign
  • Fax, No Printer: What’s unique about HORI7ON – K-pop’s new boys?
  • Regional Round-up: Celebrating heritage dress, sneaker culture in Singapore, MonkTok and more…

Innovation of the Week


Zoe Gabriel went viral after she posted a TikTok unboxing of herself receiving a Charles & Keith handbag as a gift with the caption ‘my first luxury bag’. Now she’s making headlines again – this time fronting the fashion brand’s International Women’s Day (IWD) campaign. The 17-year-old posted a photo on Instagram of herself with a special edition of the brand’s Alia bag, along with the caption: “We are like fields of poppy and lakes of lotus – diverse and bold in our differences, beautiful in our own ways.” Charles & Keith will donate 20% of the proceeds from sales of the bag to UN Women; the brand also pledged an annual donation of USD 100,000 to the cause.

💡 Our take

The message behind International Women’s Day (which is rooted in activism) is often lost in a sea of corporate messaging. Too many brands use the day as an excuse to sell stuff without taking real steps to address SEA’s gender gaps. To connect with Gen Z – hyper aware of purpose washing – IWD campaigns need to go beyond #solidarity and stereotype-reaffirming pink and purple branding. See Maybelline’s attempt to tackle discrimination against women and members of the LGBTQIA+ community in the gaming space for an example of tangible action.

OK, we’ll get off our soapbox… back to Charles & Keith! The reaction to Zoe Gabriel’s unboxing in January opened up a debate about the perception of ‘luxury’ at the expense of a teenager – albeit one with a thoughtful response. A reminder of the nasty side of the internet (haters gonna hate, hate, hate, hate, hate…), it also showed the power of authenticity when it comes to online personas. Among Gen Z, realness will always resonate.

Tapping Gabriel to front an IWD campaign – along with other employees – is a way to celebrate individuality in a way that’s credible and poignant. It adds a layer of meaning to what would otherwise be a fairly generic campaign around ‘female empowerment’, and allows the brand to take a stance on issues like privilege, wealth and social prestige, while tying them to equality and equity. To bring this message to life more tangibly, Charles & Keith could also continue with championing the rights of women and girls in digital spaces and address online bullying – this remains to be seen!

One final point. If you want to be part of cultural conversations, you need to move fast. Charles & Keith responded quickly when the original video went viral in January, now they’re keeping that momentum going. Understanding the culture that’s important to young consumers will enable you to create relevant content that drives conversations and creates community. Are you ready to respond to what’s happening when you need to?

Fax, No Printer*

For those of you born before 1997, ‘fax, no printer‘ is Gen Z speak for ‘undeniable facts I agree with’

What's so different about the new K-pop group HORI7ON?

They’re all from the Philippines

They dance in rollerblades

Their songs are all written by ChatGPT

Regional Round-up

🇺🇳 Kebaya, a garment worn by women in Southeast Asia and the national dress of a few countries in the region, has just been nominated to UNESCO’s Intangible Heritage list. Southeast Asia as a region is making waves across the world, and this nod of the head to its intangible heritage is just one sign that the region is ready for total take over. More here

👟 Sun, Singapore, and sneakers – what more could you want? On top of the ongoing Sneakertopia exhibition at the ArtScience Museum, Sneaker Con, the first regional iteration of the greatest sneaker show on Earth, will also be running in Singapore in April. The two-day conference at Singapore Expo is definitely a shoe-in for the event of the season. (Sorry!)

💜 Remember the news about HYBE buying over K-pop agency SM’s shares? Well, it has only gone and gotten even more interesting. Kakao, Korea’s number one messaging service, is launching a tender to become the largest shareholder in SM, too. As K-pop’s soft power only continues to grow, it’s clear that everyone wants a piece of the Hallyu pie. Is your brand ready to jump in?

🎶 In Thailand, TikTok has partnered with the election commission to monitor disinformation ahead of the next elections. With social media being a flywheel for storytelling with very few people fact-checking, this new innovation will help the latest voting generation to be well-informed and confident in their choices.

🇰🇭 ’Superstar’ monks in Cambodia are amassing a huge following on TikTok, despite fame-seeking being in violation of the monastic code. A reminder that no content is too niche (#MonkTok), but also that society will continue to wrestle with the thorny issue that is tradition vs. technology.

⚠️ ICYMI: A few weeks ago we highlighted Gen Z’s ever-evolving lexicon. To help bridge the generational divide, Tinder launched a ‘dating dictionary’ that makes it easier for oldies to speak the younger demographic’s language. It might not solve your situationship, but it could score you points in a dateview…

This Week's Trivia Answer

🇵🇭 A. They’re all from the Philippines!

HORI7ON is a collaboration between MLD Entertainment, a K-pop entertainment agency, and ABS-CBN, a Filipino network. With the hype around P-pop only growing stronger (just think of SB-19), it’s clear that fans are hungry for Pinoy music with Korean influences. HORI7ON have been in training in Korea with their agency, with their debut slated for June.

At Culture Group, we’ve been talking about the strength of bringing pop culture, local culture, and global culture together in order to entice young fans. HORI7ON is the perfect combination of all these things, and we can only see bright lights for them in the future. Hwaiting, boys – or should that be good luck sa inyo?

🚀 Over and Out!

Thanks for reading Culture Wire. If you enjoyed this edition, tell your friends. Subscribe, forward it on, share on social media… we appreciate you!


Your Culture Mavens,

Acacia, Aliya, Angela, Kiko, & Vicki