Three Norwegian fashion bloggers star on a Norwegian newspaper Aftenposten (see the entire series here) web reality series about the working conditions in a Cambodian sweatshop. Frida Ottesen, Ludvig Hambro, and Anniken Jørgensen set out to learn more about the place of origin of their favorite garments. Their discovery? Grueling hours, poverty-stricken conditions, impossibly low wages and no hope for a better future of the workers providing labor for many fast-fashion big brands.
In one episode, Ludvig announces his dismay at the thought that it could get worse than the trio’s sweatshop. He states the sweatshop (which does not have a proper bathroom for workers working 12+ hour shifts) was one of the few places that let them in to film the series. Meaning, it runs with “acceptable” conditions. They had one fan in the room for some air circulation.
Both Frida and Ludvig mentioned that had no idea when the shifts stop (turns out, the entire day the shop is open). They were simply told to work. Their wage for a non-stop day of work? $3. Since this is considered a living wage, the three bloggers were then challenged to live on their collective pay for the duration of the stay. Between the three of them, that’s $9 a day. They were asked to prepare a hot meal for their “family” (the crew and new friends) and provide for other necessities such as toothbrushes and paste with their newly minted paychecks. The trio quickly discovered their local supermarket was too expensive for them, and the local market was their best choice.
While the show might be a “stunt” piece, the most memorable way to ingrain a truth is through shock. In an ideal world, we wouldn’t need to place the privileged in a “rough” setting in order to make a point. Then again, in an ideal world any rough truth video wouldn’t exist because people would be getting a fair, livable wage and a high standard of living.
Hopefully, the show makes more people question where their items’ origin. It’s possible to make an impact through the smallest of changes. Yes, you might sacrifice the ability to buy 20 shirts for $100, but you can have one amazing shirt that you wear for many years from an ethical source. With the same amount spent, you have a quality piece, and its’ production allows a family to live comfortably! Frida and Ludvig seem to have shifted from a mindless consumerism and are trying to raise ethical awareness. Anniken, unfortunately, seems to still be posting outfits from fast fashion brands that have been tied to sweatshop labor. This series won’t convert everyone, but if it makes an impact on 2/3 of the world, that’s progress.
Frida and Ludvig seem to have shifted from a mindless consumerism and are trying to raise ethical awareness. Anniken, unfortunately, seems to be still posting outfits from fast fashion brands that have been directly called out over their use of sweatshop labor. This series won’t convert everyone, but if it makes an impact on 2/3 of the world, that’s progress.
Also worth noting: to my dismay, many high-end fashion brands are guilty of completely unethical practices. The show made me delve into researching my favorite brands, and my heart sank quite a bit, as a result. Check out Ethical Consumer to find out more about your favorite brands. There are few of us who can mass-consume these kind of price tags thankfully, and when we do buy a high-end brand we tend to wear it for many years. That by no means should negate our activism for change in production and manufacturing practices.