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

How much of the life of the Cambodian garment worker did you experience? (You appeared, for the most part, to have been well-fed to comfortably housed.)

Jørgensen: There are many who believe that we stayed at a luxury hotel. We didn’t. We stayed at a totally OK hotel most of the time, but it was only to sleep. It wasn’t like we were sunbathing whenever the cameras were off. On the few breaks we had, I either called my family, slept because I was exhausted, or cried.

We had to get up early in the morning every day for a new experience, so I would say that we experienced nearly everything. The only difference was that we worked in a pretty nice factory—a family-owned factory. We didn’t get into any others.

Ottesen: We had to sleep in a 24/7-secured apartment hotel, because the government and factories didn’t like us traveling around speaking to garment workers and visiting the facilities. We could have been arrested for that, so that’s why we had to sleep in a hotel.

But! I think we got a really good look into the workers’ lives, even though I know most garment workers live and work in much worse conditions than we experienced. We slept at the apartment of a garment worker named Sokty and ate dinner with her. We worked an entire day at a garment factory, earned the same wage, and shopped for food at the same market.

“On the few breaks we had, I either called my family, slept because I was exhausted, or cried.” —Anniken Jørgensen

Hambro: It’s true that we were comfortably housed in Embassy Place Apartment, a comfortable hotel mostly occupied by diplomats and businesspeople. The days were divided up into different experiences of the life of a garment worker.

Even though we stayed in a comfortable hotel, we were mostly out all day in areas of Phnom Penh the government doesn’t want you to see. We spent, as previously stated, one night at Sokty’s place. Without breakfast, we were sent straight to a factory and had to work there for eight hours.

I had never experienced exhaustion like that before. No matter how comfortable the hotel was, it felt like a lesson itself having to stay there. After witnessing the real life of Khmer people, I almost felt sick about staying where we stayed.

I didn’t feel any more entitled to that hotel than the people I had met. I was just born in the right country at the right point of history, thus making me more privileged than them. It felt very wrong. At the same time, if I had to stay any more nights sleeping on the concrete floor at Sokty’s, work any more hours in that factory, or go that many hours without food again, I would have had a meltdown.


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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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