Team Vilda is currently glued to our computer screens, binge-watching Sweatshop: Deadly Fashion, a Norwegian documentary that sees three fashion bloggers travel to Phnom Pehn, Cambodia, to experience the conditions in which contemporary fashion is made. And we’re not talking about a field trip – the bloggers actually have to work in the factories and share the workers’ homes to truly get the full insight into their lives – gruelling hours, unsanitary facilities, horrifying conditions and everything that goes into making garments for many high-street retailers.
The bloggers, none of them older than 20, embark on the adventure with the same spirit they supposedly head off to blogger conferences and press trips – carefree, laughing, cameras at the ready. But no later than the second episode Frida, 17, Anniken, 18, and Ludvig, 20 are moving in with Sokty, a 25-year-old garment factory worker who lives in a space smaller than “my bathroom”, as Anniken puts it. Frida continues: “I feel sorry for her, but then I think, this is how she’s lived her whole life, this is her home. She doesn’t think this is bad. Unlike us, we’re spoiled.”
A poignant moment in episode two is when Frida asks Sokty if she’s happy. Frida expects the answer to be yes, “because she’s always smiling”. Sokty, who works seven days a week, 7 am to 8 pm, replies that she is not happy because her family struggles for food.
In the third episode, the bloggers are put to work. “I’ve been here two hours, sewing the same seam over and over again”, says Anniken. For Cambodian workers, those are 10-12 hours a day, with no toilet paper and chairs so uncomfortable most workers prefer to stand. And Ludvig wonders what the conditions are like at factories that wouldn’t let them film the show at their premises. Their current workplace is actually a decent one, compared to others.
The bloggers leave Cambodia transformed – will this not-too-subtle peek at what goes on behind the scenes change the way they shop for fashion? It certainly touched all of us at Vilda, and it’s highly recommended viewing: to see all five episodes (10 minutes each) on the website of Norwegian newspaper Aftonposten, subtitled in English, go to Aftenposten
Photo from Ecouterre.