A Dose of Reality at a Sweatshop: Norwegian Fashion Lovers Get an Eye-Opening Experience

Fashion lovers take note: Know where your clothing comes from.

How do you think you would handle working in a sweatshop? In 2014, a handful of young, Norwegian, fashion lovers traveled to Cambodia to find out.

“Aftenposten,” the largest newspaper in Norway, taped a five-part web series that followed three fashion lovers: 17-year-old Anniken Jørgensen, 19-year-old Frida Ottesen, and 20-year-old Ludvig Hambro.

The news organization taped the five-part reality series as the young trio traveled to Phnom Penh. Once in Cambodia, the visitors experienced how a Cambodian textile worker lived and worked.

While at the beginning of the series, the fashionistas were enthusiastic to be experiencing a new country and culture, reality quickly set in for the visitors.

The subjects of the series stayed with Sokty, a Cambodian factory worker. Sokty lives in a very small, cramped apartment in the city. At first, the visitors assume that she’s happy with her living experience, as they think she doesn’t know anything else. They quickly discover, though, that Sokty is not happy with her life and she wants better for herself.

In addition to discovering that Sokty couldn’t even afford a shirt because it was $35 more than a month’s rent, the three travelers discovered the following:

— The fashion lovers worked a shift in a garment factory. Only a few hours into the shift, the Norwegians were totally exhausted. They each had to stitch the same stitch over and over again, and were working in a facility without a fan, toilet paper, or comfortable chairs (many of the workers choose to stand rather than sit). One of the Norwegians points out that other factories in the region are most likely worse.

“The awful truth is that this is one of the few places the actually let us in… I wonder how other places are, where we’re not welcome.” — Hambro

— After the visitors’ shift, they had to feed everyone on the television crew with what they made: $3 each. With only using the $9 they collectively earned, they could only afford a “thin vegetable soup with a few morsels of chicken.”

In the end, the Norwegians were incredibly aggravated and irritated with big fashion chains that don’t pay workers liveable wages.

Have any of you checked out the web series? What did you think about what you saw? Are you going to change your shopping habits?

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Resource

Reality Show Sends Young Fashionistas to Work in Cambodian Sweatshop

Image: Danijel James

Abbie Stutzer

Writer, editor, and owner of Ginchy!, a freelance writing and editing company, and home funeral hub. Adores smart sex ed, sustainable ag, spooky history, women's health, feminism, horror, wine, and sci-fi.