Sweatshop: Deadly Fashion

A week after watching these videos, and I still can’t get them out of my head.

Watch the mental shift of 3 young Norwegian fashion bloggers who come to realise what life is really like for textile workers in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

Ep 1   –   Ep 2   –   Ep 3   –   Ep 4   –   Ep 5

The trailer for this series is on YouTube, or you can watch each episode in the links above.



  1. Ok, I’ve watched one episode and going to bed now. I saw a similar thing on SBS a few years ago that was kids from the UK. It’s disturbing yet so compelling. Thanks for the effort to put them up.

  2. Yes, this is terrible, but if we shut them down, these people will have no jobs at all, how will they make money and what opportunity will they have? Also, how will the poor in the rest of the world afford clothing if clothes are much more expensive? While the cost of clothing is driven down by cheap labor, were all these people taken as slaves, or did they volunteer for this life? My father works in much harder conditions in the US, 7 days a week, at a meat processing plant in near freezing temps, always at risk of injuring himself. My grandfather lost all of his fingers due to his gloves getting caught on machinery when farming. Not everyone has an education or opportunity as you white people do, so they get by with the jobs they are qualified for. All this emotionalism does have an effect on these people’s lives – which could force them into slavery, prostitution, or homelessness as another option, given the lack of opportunity if we take it away from them.

    1. Shut them down? It’s not about that. It’s about paying the workers a wage they can actually subsist on, and getting the people who buy the products to realise what is actually happening when they buy a $10 tshirt so they can demand more from the supply chain they take part in (or a much more expensive one made in such conditions, for that matter). People born into such poverty have no choice, and one injustice does not make a another injustice any less deserving of the injustice status.

  3. Hi Melanie. You are right to care about how and under what conditions clothing – and fabric for that matter – is produced. One thing I read recently is that some governments in third world countries will offer even lower wages per hour to get contracts from the west – so political change needs to happen at both ends of the chain.Greed and inhumanity are hideous wherever they occur.

    1. I’ve often wondered about where the fabric part of this equation sits, Valerie! I’m lucky enough to be in a position to indulge my love of beautiful fabrics… which more often than not state the country of origin (france, italy… an on). However having heard of first hand of similar style sweatshops in our own country, there is always doubt in my mind over the whether or not such fabric is affected by similar circumstances. I guess that knowledge is power – the more people who understand the impact incredibly ‘cheap’ (and sometimes even the normally priced stuff) clothing and who demand more humane conditions for the workers involved – the more chance we have of affecting change.

  4. I am saddened. I am outraged. I always knew this was real but this brought it home. I want to thank you for sharing these clips.

    1. It seems that way so often, I agree. I think the best thing we can do is to ask our favourite clothing suppliers what they are doing to ensure their supply chain is humane. Thanks, Stina.

  5. My eldest daughter went to middle school with people who defending the ‘slavery’ of children making rugs in their native countries because it provided an income, however small and horrible the working conditions were. Cheap clothing (and our sickeningly narcissistic bragging about how little we paid for x-y-z) is a different face on the same conundrum. I think that knowledge is power, and education is a necessary part of this at the consumer end. I also think the ‘wealthy’ need to be content with consuming less, and paying more for what they consume. But that begs the question, if we consume less, demands are less, and there is no need for supply. And, like my husband says, if everyone is a lawyer, doctor or engineer, who will look after the trades? Our food? It’s such a tough issue, and CONTENTMENT with what we (stakeholders) already have should be the rule, not the exception, even the world of business, which will never happen. We always think we want and need more or newer. Thanks for posting the links, Melanie. We do need to make informed choices. Every $$ we spend is a vote on one side of the fence, whether we want to see/admit it or not.

  6. The problem is that we have all got hooked on huge quantities of clothing which we use to define who we are . In the past people didn’t use their appearance to define themselves as much and so we’re happy to have much less . We have list perspective and so are consuming in ways that we can’t sustain both environmentally and morally . It will come crashing down at some stage and maybe we will be more in touch with what is really important .

  7. A quick look at Annika’s blog tells me that unfortunately this experience does not seem to have had a lasting effect on her. Her comment that she used to think that other peoples suffering didn’t matter, but now she sees that they are real people who matter as much as her, seems to be forgotten. She’s back to doing the usual fashion blogger stuff. I hope the documentary has a longer lasting effect on some of the people who watch it than it has had on her.

    As someone who sews of course I don’t buy much that was made in those type of garment factories, but of course it’s easy to feel smug about that while forgetting all of the innumerable other consumer items I do buy that come from factories from far away places with terrible working conditions. Clothing is a good start, but I hope I can consume more responsibly in more areas in the future.

  8. Thank you for sharing these videos, they were very thought provoking. I have been evaluating my own buying habits and, even though I sew practically everything I wear, I am guilty of buying bargain clothes for the rest of the family – and feeling smug about it :(
    I heard treasurer Joe Hockey on the radio yesterday saying that the government wants to get on with making Australians richer. You can be sure he means the already rich Australians, not the ones who really need it and certainly not the rest of the world. It makes me sick how they only care about themselves and their cronies when there is so much suffering and unfairness they could help alleviate.
    As far as buying cheap clothes goes, I’m not sure what we, as consumers, can do to help. Would it help to only buy expensive clothes? I doubt it. Buying clothes that you know were made by workers in good conditions is good, but if everyone does that what happens to the workers in poor conditions? It would get worse before it got better for them. The companies must be pressured to do the right thing, but with Kmart and Big W selling school polo shirts last week for $2 each (I didn’t buy any!), we’ve got a long way to go.

  9. Thank you so much for sharing this. I feel very strongly about this, and it’s the reason I started sewing, years ago. I’ve seen the trailer for this, and I am aware of the deadly fast fashion industry. There’s no reason for any humans to suffer in this way. If there weren’t such a demand for cheap clothing and greed to always buy more, this wouldn’t have to be. Also, if there wasn’t greed and selfishness to always make more and more money (and there’s never enough); clothing manufacturers may be able to function a little more sustainably and have a better balance. Success is not always about more and more. Success is always about balance. Just look at the whole picture. We need to put our world back into balance. In the meantime, I choose not to participate in the destructive insanity.

  10. People should be paid a decent wage where they are actually able to live, period. I remember visiting Cambodia 10 years ago and there was a young man who said he used to work in the capital sewing shirts for $3 a day. Well rice is $1 a day. But you know you can’t just eat rice, and you need a place to stay and some clothes for your body. He was at that time working on the coast cooking for tourists and said it was a whole lot better. They lived and slept in their makeshift shack/restaurant.

  11. This seems like one of those things that you have to experience to take it seriously. Not that you’ve got to truly live those conditions to appreciate the seriousness of it, but you need to know and care about someone who is there, or has been there.

    Also, I don’t know about you, but when people with skills don’t take the time to teach, that is a selfishness that will cause much harm in future generations…. which we are witnessing now.

    Like many in the ‘sewing is a very useful hobby’ camp’, it is really appalling when you sit and do the math. If a pair of jeans is 25 in the shop, that means the shop gets probably about half markup… that leaves all the rest to be divided between factory owner, cotton grower, fabric producer, dye, buttons, zip, possibly duty taxes, drafter, cutter, and probably last of all the machinist. One of the troubling things about this, is that you generally cannot sew for less. Almost as though useful hobbies, and fabric production, are discouraged by our own governments through tariffs and other means.

    All that said.. since there seems to be so little integrity in the biz, I wouldn’t know who to buy from. We try to buy secondhand, or make our own.

  12. Thank for sharing this heart breaking insight into some people’s reality. I will do a small part and share it as well. Educating others is a step towards a better tomorrow.

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