INTERVIEW: Norway’s “Sweatshop Fashionistas,” In Their Own Words

by , 02/05/15   filed under: Features, Interviews, Q&A, Worker Rights

Sweatshop: Dead Cheap Fashion, Aftenposten, sweatshops, sweatshop workers, sweatshop labor, forced labor, eco-fashion, sustainable fashion, green fashion, ethical fashion, sustainable style, workers rights, human rights, Norway, eco-fashion documentaries, eco-fashion films, Anniken Jørgensen, Frida Ottesen, Ludvig Hambro

At first, the three of you were pretty dismissive of the garment-labor situation in Cambodia. Was there a specific turning point for you?

Jørgensen: It’s true. I think that I was so overwhelmed that I didn’t allow myself to process the situation at the time. I think it’s a human reaction when you experience something so strongly. So I tried to push those emotions away. But after the factory tour, something clicked. I fell into tears and cried a lot that night. I felt terribly stupid and cynical.

Ottesen: In the series, there was one line we often repeated: “They are used to it.” But you know what, after coming home from this trip, I’m so pissed with myself for saying that because that is not an excuse! Nobody should live like that even if that was always the case. Nobody should get used to sleeping on the floor.

My turning point came after the day at the factory. I sat there for eight hours, sewing the same stitches over and over again. And I only earned $3! That isn’t enough to even buy a Coke! I worked for eight hours and I couldn’t even afford to buy tampons at the supermarket.

“I sat there for eight hours, sewing the same stitches over and over again. And I only earned $3!” —Frida Ottesen

I realized that, as a garment worker, I’d have to supply my family with food, shelter, clothing, water, transport, electricity, and everything else for only $3 a day. It’s not right!

Hambro: I think the two others were a bit more dismissive than I was. Partly because I was a bit older, and partly because I was very into politics, society matters, and such.

To be honest, nothing I saw down there came as a shock because things were pretty much what I thought they were like, so in that sense, I was even more ignorant than they were. They genuinely thought conditions there would be better.

What came as a shock, however, was really opening my eyes to it in a non-cynical way and realizing that these people are actually just that: people. They’re not machines. They’re not happy elves. They’re people, just like you and me, with a mortgage, with children, with health issues they need to take care of, and they can barely afford to eat.

The turning point for me was when I saw how Sokty, one of the workers we met, lived. It was then that I started taking in what it really meant to live as a garment factory worker.

The more I saw, the more I felt, and I think it all boiled over after the whole experience: sleeping in Sokty’s house, working in a factory, trying to buy food (conveniently ignoring other expenses they have to count in), and finally going to the women’s center where we had to talk face to face with a garment worker.


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One Response to “INTERVIEW: Norway’s “Sweatshop Fashionistas,” In Their Own Words”

  1. brooke vlasich says:

    I enjoyed hearing the bloggers point of view to see their reasons for joining the show, how their expectations changed, and what they learned. Once you have to be in someone else’s position it changes everything you thought and saw. I always want to see the world through another person’s eyes to challenge what I think so I can help the world better.

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