Wealthy bloggers cry upon seeing fashion sweatshops in Cambodia

2 February 2015 / 1 year 8 months ago

Anniken, Frida and Ludwig are three wealthy fashion bloggers who make a living promoting and wearing the latest trends from the catwalk.

But behind all the glitzy events, giant bank accounts and designer labels a sad and ultimately tragic story lies waiting to be told, reports Asiantown.NET.

SweatShop: Dead Cheap Fashion is a Norwegian documentary that follows the three bloggers as they spend a month living and experiencing life in a Cambodian sweatshop.

They are restricted to the budgets, surroundings and dwellings of the garment workers themselves - no VIP or red carpet treatment in sight.

Anniken who routinely spends over $600 a month JUST on clothes, now faces the reality of being restricted to a $6 budget for food.

The workers themselves earn $130 a month, a little over $4 a day in some of the most oppressive and stifling conditions you can imagine.

The factories they work for are contracted by large fashion houses, who value profit over the welfare of those producing their clothing.

Many of the workers are unable to break out of the cycle of exploitation and poverty, every dollar from their low wage goes to feeding their families, children and supporting their aging parents.

There is no money for a holiday, for leisure, for toys, for entertainment, for all the things you and I often take for granted.

Many of the workers have found the burden too much, resulting in a series of violent clashes and protests with the factory owners and police in Phnom Penh.

Workers are pleading for an increase in their minimum wage of $130 to $160, employers are steadfast in continuing to keep costs as low as possible.

During the series, all manner of eye-opening and confronting revelations await the trio, including the realisation that their bathrooms back home in Norway are the size of an entire house for a Cambodian textile worker.

After discovering that one worker had sewed the same seam, on the same sweater for 14 years Anniken breaks down in tears "What kind of life is this this?" she asks. The silence that greets her question is deafening.

After the series ended, both Anniken and Frida became activists fighting for better pay, better conditions and a better life for the workers who manufacture clothing for some of the biggest high street brands, including the likes of H&M.

Their journey, from naive fashion bloggers to passionate activists has resulted in the Norwegian Parliament opening a debate on how businesses conduct their practices overseas, whilst H&M were lobbied by the pair to improve the conditions in their factories.

Progress is thankfully being made, even if it comes in the form of small victories at first. Combined they can hopefully cause the change that is so desperately needed.

However, SweatShop Dead Cheap Fashion, is stark reminder to us all that by supporting the fashion industry in its present form, we're indirectly supporting these kind of practices.

But it also highlights that the power of humanity, of kindness and compassion has the capacity to topple the greed of corporations and improve the circumstances of the world's most vulnerable.

You can view the entire confronting series, complete with English translation via Aftenposten.

Join in the talk