Sweatshop Dead Cheap Fashion

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.

Episode 1: “How many will die here every year?”

Episode 2: “Our bathroom is larger than her entire house.”

Episode 3: “I’ll keep going until I faint.”

Episode 4: “The large chains are starving their workers!”

Episode 5: “What kind of life is this?”

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!

Yvette xo

  • divanista

    Those kids are clueless just like the people who produced this documentary. For once can people please stop this bullshit argument about what a blessing these factories are for these people giving them any work at all? Seriously???? This is nothing new!!!! Bringing up the same argument and issues is just simply dumb and stupid and blatantly ignorant. These people are slaves!! And these movies don’t DO JACK ALL! It doesn’t create awareness! We are just exposing the exploiters but nothing can be done.

    You said that it should be individual social responsibility or whatever but that is sheer delusion if you ask me. Because at the end of the day we will go back to our daily lives and routine, just like we did 50 minutes ago before watching these clips, and we will continue to gawk at the cheap prices at H&M and Zara.

    But seriously, I should burn in hell for buying these clothes but everyone else should burn in hell twice for thinking you are doing something these sweatshop workers a favour by buying the goods and supporting and providing them with jobs!!

    • dothedewS

      wow! where is your sense of hope for humanity? it’s about creating awareness is all. perhaps it didn’t get through to you, but it may have for others. But having been able to capture and move one person versus the rest is still worthwhile. That demonstrates the strength of hope.

      • divanista

        Seriously, I am not a lost cause. I still have some hope left in this world except I didn’t really sense the sincerity behind this documentary.

        • Diva JJ

          agreed about the sincerity but we have to learn to look past and beyond that and look at the greater issue at hand, otherwise we are missing the point.

    • just_passing_through

      oh fuck off. it’s better than being homeless. if they didn’t have this terrible job, they’d be starving. the factories isn’t their problem. the poverty is. same thing (and even worse) is happening in africa, except they don’t even have the chance to work and make SOME money at least. shutting the factories down and stopping the industry will take away the only source of income they have. then what will they do? go in the streets and live happily ever after?

      • Diva JJ

        wow! where do you come off with such ignorance??

  • dothedewS

    It’s an interesting documentary to say the least, but I cannot stand that one girl Anniken. She truly seems like a vain girl just so full of herself, and using this to get herself more exposure is all. I just visited her blog and vanity is all I see…. she may have felt the pain and shown it with tears but perhaps, sadly, it was just for the moment…… IDK…..

    • divanista

      Those kids are going to feel bad for a day or two and then go home, where everything will be back the way it was. Just like everyone who watches this. We all know how those people live but we do nothing. We can never understand how important it is NOT to live a life like this until we feel it on our own skin. Meaning everyone needs to go and experience it for themselves. I’m not trying to insult anyone. This is an insult to all of humanity, including me. I’m just think people ought to know.

      • fancydaint

        Makes sense. Hate to admit it but it is somewhat true.

    • fancydaint

      ok, I just checked out her blog as well. Total and utter vanity. It makes me question whether she was crying with empathy for those sweatshop workers, or sympathy tears and thinking “poor little white girl stuck in this place, shooting this dreaded documentary” and counting down the days until she gets back home.

    • sgstyling

      I totally agree with you lar! Her perfectly manicured hands while sobbing away felt like temporary tears for show. The other girl and the guy seemed somewhat genuine.

      • Diva JJ

        well said.

  • fancydaint

    It’s easy to make a film showing the injustices in the world and to show emotions and expressions of unfairness when you have just landed from a Norwegian privileged middle-class background of welfare state and beautiful hair and make-up.
    The juxtaposition of film-maker and subject is predisposed (set-up) to produce these results.
    The people who live and work in these conditions and grew up in this are not happy with their lives but they are not shocked as the Western viewers- they just get on with their lives. It all depends on your viewpoint.
    Younger people these days would not accept sleeping in a bedroom where ice covered the windows inside the house and where mold grew on the wallpaper and people don’t want cars with skinny tires or without ABS or even seatbelts but these were all normal things less than 50 years ago in Europe.
    Sending three naïve teenagers to a sweatshop is bound to produce emotional TV, but let’s stick to the facts and deal with the problems in an unemotional way.

  • ajexstein

    What are the alternatives? Are there fairly and ethically produced clothes that I can afford with my squeezed middle income?

    • fancydaint

      buy the clothes that were made in countries like Morocco, Turkey and Bulgaria that share the rights of workers. And avoid countries made in Taiwan, China, Cambodia and Laos. And read the John Perkins books to make this argument clear.

      • Diva JJ

        I would check your sources, I heard that Bulgaria is still a country suffering from poor working conditions as well.

  • fabYOUlous

    I agree that companies need to be more socially responsible, but I believe it’s up to each one of us to take action and bring more awareness. As a consumer, does this mean that people will pay more from socially responsible companies? Time will tell.

    • Diva JJ

      that is a rather premature comment, woulnd’t you say? Don’t you think we need to first have these mega companies take social responsibility, before we can decide what those consequences are as consumers?

  • sgstyling

    this is way sad lar, but I have no sympathy for the bloggers bc they probably dont know any better than what they are used to seeing and living in their own bubble. Did they learn anything from this experience? Only they can be 100% sure. But this is slavery just like the Maid situation we have in SG. It’s slavery work lar. But all of this is the Country’s Government issue, they have to protect their kind of people lar. I like the message behind the document but I think it was sugar coated and too fabricated.

    • Diva JJ

      what maid situation are you speaking of? SG stands for Singapore correct? I thought it was some super developed country?? Maids are a no-no, because they are never compensated or treated equally.

  • Diva JJ

    Hm…. this is very interesting. But I’m having a harder time deciding which topic is even more interesting! The documentary you share or the debate going down the comments section!!

    I guess the first thing is, it’s so controversial and I am sure that the creators of the documentary filmed it for just that. And I have to agree with most of the observations below that alot of it seemed more fabricated and less genuine about the mission. It felt like more self-pity than sympathy for the actual issue at hand, despite the tears and emotions behind it. But the message in itself, and that a sweatshop actually agreed and allowed filming inside the premises was shocking, and the scary part is that those that closed their doors, unfortunately probably do have far worse working conditions……..

    As for the debates below, I feel like sometimes we make baseless assumptions, and it just annoys me that they have the audacity to condemn and judge but don’t have the guts to making or contributing to the change.

    Anyways interesting for sure!

  • fashion2themax

    this is so undeniably sad and true…. the realities of sweatshops and poor working conditions are a tragedy. If only we could all take a look at what’s happening around the world and just cared alittle…. If only we could fix our domestic issues and teach everyone how not to hate…. If only……. then life would be a much better place. A girl can dream!

  • thanks for your comments guys! I appreciate each of you taking the time to leaving your thoughts here!

  • chaeyoncé

    this is so interesting and all the conversations going on below! The world is a scary place! But people are scarier! Wish life could be more sacred and people would view and treasure it like as though it is….. #ifonly

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