Pillow Talk: Gabriela Lim & Serena Chan of Oh, Culture

Serena and Gabriela from Oh, Culture in their home smiling. Serena is wearing a striped long-sleeved shirt. Gabriela is wearing a nude crop top.

Gabriela Lim and Serena Chan are the minds behind Oh, Culture, a platform for local artists to sustainably pursue their passions. We first met Gabriela, the founder, at a pop-up store where she was selling artwork she had curated. At the time, we were searching for designers for an upcoming collection and our meeting seemed serendipitous. We connected, our visions aligned, and before long, we had started working on Lines & Movement: a collection inspired by the feeling of winding down and the natural movement of our bodies at rest.

Speaking of winding down, we hung out with Serena and Gabriela a few weekends ago after our work session to find out more about them.

Let’s start at the beginning. How did you two actually connect and start Oh, Culture?

Serena: Gabriela started Oh, Culture as a school project. At the time, I was working on my other label, Bare, by myself. I met up with Gabriela to ask her about Oh, Culture and get some advice. A while later, I saw her posting on social media about how she was looking for help with logistics and operations. Bare was still building up and I had some downtime so I decided I would reach out to help her. We had a meeting which was very casual and chill; we were just bouncing around ideas and that was when she told me she was looking for a partner since Oh, Culture was in the middle of pivoting

Gabriela: I had started Oh, Culture as a B2C brand selling curated art prints but it was really tough moving products in a field where the lifetime conversion was low. I only began thinking about pushing the brand into the B2B area when Clara approached me about the Sunday Bedding project. With this project, I realised I would need help with operations and supply chain management because I’m not a very financially savvy person, even though I have a day job working in a bank. I’m more of a big-picture, coming-up-with-ideas person. Serena and I connected so I thought why not try working together? We’re both young and this is where our passion lies, we decided to go ahead with the partnership.

Serena: The vision for Oh, Culture is to be a community for local creatives and freelancers. Although community is not the money-making arm, it really is the most important one. Just recently, we hosted an intimate, by-invite-only event. It was very casual and people just gathered to talk about their experiences and takeaways working as local creatives.

Gabriela: Yeah, it was nice. I guess it reminded us of why we’re doing this. So, to backtrack a bit, the idea behind Oh, Culture was to help a community of artists reach a wider market. But as we continued to stay in the market, we realised that being a freelancer can be isolating if you’re not in a setting where you’re constantly meeting new people. The culture of innovation can hit a glass ceiling when you’re working on your own.

When you’re in a team or just working with other people, there’s that tension between what you want and what they want and what the clients want. That makes people learn and grow. A lot of freelance designers work in isolation and it’s tough to break out of that. It’s sad because it causes many of them to then leave the industry.

So we built Oh, Culture to be the bridge that allows artists to foster a culture of being in a team while being able to work remotely. That’s why community is so important to us. I mean, even personally, I’ve learned so much more now that I have Serena onboard. She has pushed me to move to a new level with the business.

How do you decide on which designers and artists to work with?

Gabriela: We work with designers that are unique, talented and most importantly, have a growth mindset to adapt and be open to feedback. We initially wanted to take on everyone and represent both emerging and established artists. But right now, we're being selective with the artists we represent, focusing on strong portfolios that can meet the needs of our clients and in the same way, reflect Oh, Culture's standards and values. At the end of the day, we still have to be able to stand in front of our clients and present our artists' work to them. We have to make sure that the quality is there.

Serena: I see us as middle-men who know how to match people. Some creatives have unique styles and you don’t want to match them with clients who don’t appreciate their styles. You don’t want to force these designers and artists to adapt to an art style that they are not comfortable with either. There has to be a balance.

Finally, let’s talk more about your collaboration with Sunday Bedding! How did you guys come up with Lines & Movement?

Gabriela: Alex & Clara wanted a design that was easy to match with in the bedroom and didn’t have too strong of a presence — something contemporary but flavourful. We put together a moodboard for them and after agreeing on a feel, approached different artists whom we thought would be suitable for the collaboration.

We ended up working with Vanessa Chua, an emerging freelance artist. She actually worked with us on the inspiration for the design. Lines was based on the idea of how our body moves when we sleep — there’s a sense of fluidity because it mimics natural, restful movement. Movements is based on different shapes on the sheet that can come together, even if the sheet is crumpled or bunched together. It’s the shapes that are supposed to move.

Lines & Movement will be launching on 15 November. Sign-up on our newsletter to get first dibs!

Pillow Talk is an interview series done in collaboration with Public Culture, an editorial experience studio that believes in connection over communication. This feature was photographed by Christopher Wong for Sunday Bedding and Public Culture.