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

Aftenposten posted a statement from H&M at the end of the show, even though it wasn’t mentioned by name during the series. Was there a reason H&M was singled out?

Jørgensen: Because the workers mentioned H&M a lot but those clips weren’t shown. I ended up arguing with Aftenposten afterwards, too. I don’t know what I would have done without my blog readers. They had my back throughout the ordeal and helped me get the message out.

It took a long time but H&M eventually responded. I met with some of the heads. It was a difficult meeting where they didn’t understand a lot of what I was trying to say. They believed that their factories were fine (we weren’t allowed in) and that we were probably misled into believing otherwise. I was so disappointed and angry.

Ottesen: They were mentioned because we met garment workers who had made clothes for H&M. Also, H&M is a brand with a lot of power, so they can take the pressure.

In the end, H&M agreed to meet me and Anniken. They didn’t want us to film the meeting at first but then we argued a lot and we got our way. There was a lot of tension in the room.

We asked H&M a lot of questions, like why they haven’t done anything to improve the situation and why they haven’t used their power to raise wages for their workers.

They had an answer for everything without actually answering the questions. Everything was “so hard” to improve because so many people were involved and so on.

“It took a long time but H&M eventually responded. I was so disappointed and angry.” —Anniken Jørgensen

They also said the show isn’t representative of H&M because we didn’t visit any factories that sewed clothes for them, which was true. They invited us to visit their factories in Cambodia, and I both want to and don’t want to go because they can manipulate it to their advantage.

I know that H&M and many other brands feel very threatened by Sweatshop now that it’s gone viral around the world. It can actually be catastrophic for them. The consumer has the power now!

Hambro: I think H&M, with their highly educated media-relations executives, will try talking themselves out of this, along with all the other big brands.

They claim this documentary is “non-representative” because we didn’t visit any of their factories. The fact is that we talked to their workers. Almost everyone put clothes together for them and that’s one of the reasons for why they were singled out. H&M is also the biggest brand in Norway.

I do believe that there are people within H&M who want to make a difference. I’m not saying that they are evil people; I think they just don’t realize what being a garment-factory worker in Cambodia, India, Bangladesh, or China really means.

Yes, they do know salaries are too low, they do know something has to be done, but I think they build a wall like I did, and I don’t think they do enough. They might have good intentions and have good words, but actions tell a different story and things aren’t happening fast enough. These are real people—real people who don’t have time for a 10-year process and dialogue. They could be dead by then.

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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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