We always hear about sweatshops and its ‘unfair’ labours and poor working conditions. But this social experiment documented by Aftenposten, Norway’s largest newspaper captured the issues at hand in a very interesting way. The ways in we are so consumed with ‘fast fashion’ these days with the likes of social media and its apps and fashion bloggers, this will certainly make you think twice about where we buy our clothes and educating one another on our own individual social responsibility.
I took the liberty to gather the 5 part series of this powerful documentary called ‘Sweatshop Dead Cheap Fashion‘ and share them below – and without spoiling it, basically it’s about 3 fashion bloggers; Anniken Jørgensen, Frida Ottesen and Ludvig Hambro, that are being sent to one of the Southeast Asian country’s capital of Phnom Penh, to experience a modicum of a Cambodian textile worker’s life for one month in 2014. There are a number of powerful footages so viewer’s discretion is advised.
Some of the moments that were hard for me to take in was when they paid a visit to MANGO only to realize that the clothes that they sewed could not even be afforded, a $35 dollar basic cotton shirt is a month’s worth of rent. “I think it was tough to be at Mango,” Hambro says later. “Those who make the garments should also be able to afford them.”
One of the other moving moments was in Episode 4, when the show’s producers challenged them with feeding the entire production crew on a day’s earnings—$3 apiece, or a total of $9. “To experience how short $9 reach is something you can’t see on TV,” says Hambro after they rustle up a thin vegetable soup with a few morsels of chicken. “What it actually costs to live here, you just don’t get to know. They don’t have money for food; the big fashion chains starve their workers. And nobody holds them responsible.”
And you can tell that by the end of the series, the bloggers are transformed, particularly Jørgensen, who described the workers’ lives in Episode 1 as “just okay; they have a job!” And sure you may have even gotten furious at their ignorance and naiveness, but just like Hambro, equally circumspect, when comparing life in Norway as living in a bubble. “You think you know; you think you know it’s bad,” Hambro says. “But you don’t know how bad it is before you see it.” And this is particularly true when you decide to turn a blind eye and choose not to know about it.
Still, Hambro admits the situation in other facilities in Cambodia may, in fact, be a lot worse. “The awful truth is that this is one of the few places they actually let us in,” he says of the factory, which has no toilet paper, a single fan, and chairs so uncomfortable the workers would rather stand. “I wonder how other places are, where we’re not welcome.”
Ottesen jabs her finger at apparel giants like H&M. “I don’t understand why the big chains, like H&M, don’t act?” she says. “H&M is a big company with massive amounts of power. Do something! Take responsibility for your employees.”
While I can agree to a certain extent, it’s easier to blame the big corporations and condemn them on corporate social responsibility but it can also start with us as individuals and being more aware and sharing awareness like this. Sure we don’t see it, and so it’s easier to ignore when everything is so readily accessible and ‘cheap’ in whatever social standards we come from, but everything starts with a small dose of change and knowledge. It’s like they said in the documentary, we are rich because (somewhere else in the World) they are the poor.
Nobody needs to starve or die or work in poor conditions so that we can be able to afford a $9 dollar tshirt. Each of our life is valuable, no less or greater.
We can’t solve everything or fix such a global problem, but being more aware and conscientious is a start to something. I think we are all capable of contributing to a greater good, and become socially responsible individually. What are your thoughts to this 5 part documentary? Share on the comments below!
And thanks for tuning in!