Fashion bloggers and everyday consumers often scope out their wardrobes at mass retailers that provide fast, inexpensive fashion. But three young fashion bloggers from Norway recently learned that supporting inexpensive clothing chains has a high human cost.
A project by Aftenposten, Norway’s largest newspaper, flew fashion bloggers Anniken Jorgensen, Frida Ottesen and Ludvig Hambro to Cambodia to live and work in the same conditions as the workers who make the clothes they model for their audience.
The Huffington Post reported the bloggers lived on $3 a day, slept on the floor and sewed the same seam for eight hours, six day a week — just like their fellow workers. The Phnom Penh textile company allowed cameras into the workspace, suggesting its conditions are far from the worst.
The bloggers were clearly stunned and horrified by the conditions. At one point, a teenage worker tells Jorgensen her mother died of starvation because the family could not afford food on their wages. Jorgensen was unsure how to respond.
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Cambodia is not the worst offender when it comes to conditions for workers. The garment industry is Cambodia’s most lucrative export, having shipped more than $4 billion worth of products to the U.S. and Europe in 2012.
Fashion retailer H&M declined to be interviewed for the reality series, but it issued a statement acknowledging that wages in manufacturing countries, like Cambodia, are too low and pointed to its plan to raise wages by 2018.
That may not be soon enough for the thousands of people struggling to survive in sweatshops.
"The truth is, that we are rich because they're poor," Hambro said in the final episode of "Sweatshop." "We are rich because it costs us 10 euros (about $11) to buy a T-shirt (at) H&M. But somebody else has to starve for you to be able to buy it."
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Watch all the episodes in English by clicking here.