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

What is your relationship with fashion like now?

Jørgensen: I have a different outlook on fashion. I do not buy clothes from H&M because I simply cannot do it. I’m trying to better appreciate my clothes and not throw anything away.

It’s important to know that it isn’t the job itself that’s the problem. There are many jobs I wouldn’t choose, like retrieving trash or picking cotton. But that’s life; everyone must do something. The problem [in the sweatshop] is that the air there is bad, the workers sit on a stool, they don’t get breaks, they don’t have freedom of movement or water or food or a proper salary.

The workers I spoke with said we shouldn’t stop buying clothes because it means they would lose their jobs. They just want better working conditions, better wages, and better lives. So while I’ve done all that I can on a personal level, the real change has to come from the clothing chains.

Ottesen: After all I’ve experienced, I can’t find myself buying clothes at any outlet shops, except when really, really necessary! I actually haven’t bought any clothes since I came back from Cambodia. I started to understand that I had everything I needed.

“Shopping shouldn’t be a hobby.” —Frida Ottesen

Now I don’t go out “shopping” like it is a hobby, because I think shopping shouldn’t be a hobby. I still love unique clothes from secondhand places, however, or ethical clothing.

Hambro: My relation with fashion now is changed. Firstly, I have become much more picky when it comes to clothes, and secondly, I have respect for the clothes I buy.

I know that it’s a person with hopes and dreams that has put it together, and that I can afford it because his or her salary is low.

Are you campaigning for workers’ rights in any way?

Jørgensen: I’m conducting lectures around Norway to convey the message to as many people as possible. But as a schoolgirl, it’s difficult to do everything. I quarreled with H&M in the newspapers throughout the summer last year. I’ve really worked on this issue with blood and tears.

Ottesen: Yep! I do my best! I recently spoke at the Norwegian Parliament, where I tried to engage politicians to think about our responsibilities as a country.

I also travel to other cities in Norway to urge teenagers and young politicians to be critical about where our clothes come from. (I have four talks lined up right now.) I just want to get people to fight the same fight!


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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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