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

Were there any moments that were cut from the documentary but you wish they had shown?

Jørgensen: Many. The girls we spoke with in Episode 5 even told us that they had sewn clothes for H&M. Aftenposten, the newspaper that produced the show, clipped those away, which made me furious afterwards.

Ottesen: There was lots of good material that got cut away, but I think the end result is perfect. I can say that because it reaches out to everyone: teenagers and adults. It depicts us as the normal teenagers we are: naive at first, but then filled with new awareness. It’s simple, not too long nor too short, and it gives the right amount of information for viewers to understand that sweatshops are a big problem and something has to be done.

Hambro: A scene I think many of us hoped would make it in the show was when we gave Sokty a pack of chocolate hearts from Norway. She cried and said that she had never received any gifts in her entire life. That made us all realize how poor they are. They have just enough to stave off starvation; they simply can’t afford to give or take.

“At one point I had to stop talking because I could not breathe; I cried so much.” —Anniken Jørgensen

Another scene we wish the show kept involved some small children who followed us in the streets of a neighborhood of Phnom Penh. Although they’re deprived of most material goods or other things children in our part of the world take for granted, they still smile and find things to play with. We fell in love with these children, all sharing a bike. We played hide and seek in the street and let them borrow our cameras so they could see themselves for the first time in a picture.

They were so happy, despite the grim future that sadly lies in front of them unless action is taken and their parents are granted a minimum wage that properly supports them. They’re starving, and it’s unfair.

What was the hardest thing you had to do in Cambodia?

Jørgensen: When I spoke with the girl from the shelter. I struggle with it even today. At one point I had to stop talking because I could not breathe; I cried so much.

Sitting in the midst of it all, I realized that real life wasn’t like news on television. It’s tough to write about it even now.

Ottesen: To know that I was going back to my normal life, where I had no problems, no worries, and where I had a good home with a good bed, school, a job where I earned $160 a day—the same as the garment workers received in a month—and everything they didn’t have. It felt so stupidly wrong!

Although our lives were so different, we still had the same wants and desires. I was just really, really sad to leave the people I had gotten to know, without knowing what would happen to them.


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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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