Will This Reality Show Change Your Fast Fashion Habits?


As fashion bloggers, we often feel pressure to buy lots and lots of clothes. To show something brand new in every post. To not repeat outfits or even pieces. And most of us aren't fabulously wealthy, which means we seek out bargains. There's nothing wrong with that—not always. But we should know where our clothes are coming from and who is being put at risk by making them.

Poor worker conditions are nothing new. We all had a harsh reality check when a Bangladesh factory collapsed in 2013 killing 1,129 garment laborers. Everyone was horrified, and many of us vowed never to indulge in fast fashion again. I did, and then just this past weekend, I bought my daughter some play clothes at H&M because the sweatpants were 3 for $16 or something ridiculous.

Maybe the only thing that will truly change shopper behavior is to visit a garment factory, to look into the eyes of a worker and her children, who live together in poor conditions on sweatshop premises for the privilege of working there. That's what three Norwegian fashion bloggers did for a new reality show called Sweatshop: Deadly Fashion.

Norway's largest newspaper Aftenposen sent them to Phnom Penh, Cambodia, to experience and actually do some sewing at a garment factory.

“I have no words for it. It's just so unfair,” 20-year-old Ludvig Hambro them says in the trailer. “The truth is that we are rich because they are poor. We are rich because it costs us €10 ($11.20) to buy a t-shirt at H&M.”

The others are sobbing after experiencing the garment worker life. 17-year-old blogger Anniken Jorgensen has since railed against worker conditions, particularly at H&M.

You can watch episodes with English subtitles here, and you can watch the trailer below. After watching them myself, I might have to return those items to H&M. Though there are signs that conditions in some factories have improved, many still have horrible conditions. I don't know how I could watch my daughter frolicking in her Mickey Mouse sweats knowing others may have suffered to make them.

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About The Author

In addition to being editor at IFB, Kristen writes for Forbes, Eat, Sleep, Denim, and her own blog, Stylenik. Previously, she served as the San Francisco editor for Racked, covering the intersection of retail, fashion, and technology. She has written about everything from human cloning to luxury shopping for publications including Wired, Gizmodo, Refinery 29, and the San Francisco Chronicle. She lives in a '70s house in '70s clothes on the Northern California coast. 

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19 Responses

  1. Dymond Moore

    Wow. This is beyond sad. I was sorta against fast fashion before I knew about all this and now I most definitely am. Maybe I’ll be out of a couple extra bucks but in the end maybe these companies will realize that now it’s harming their business as well as the people.

  2. Marlena

    I have not watched the video yet, I am about to now. What I would like to say is that I come from a fashion & textile background and as difficult this subject is, we know sadly lots of companies use these practices, not only H&M and Primark. High end brands – I will not name them here – do the same as they simply can get away with it and pocket a higher margin. The whole idustry needs to change, but then even in the UK fashion and textile students and graduates are treated like slaves, often working for free and very long hours. The public does not realise this. Unpaid internships are the norm. Another thing is that manufacturing conditions even in the UK leave a lot to be desired. Sad truth about the industry.
    What I think we should do, and I started doing that a year ago, is to stop treating clothing as throwaway items; buy just what we need, pay attention to quality, take care of the items, buy mindfully, only what we really like and will wear many times, and items that will not fall apart after one wash. Do not buy just to put it in your wardrobe and wear it once and throw away! Quality and thoughtfulness goes a long way. We should buy less and think of the environment and workers, and push for all companies, not just the ‘fast fashion’ ones to have a transparent manufacturing process. I could go on and on about it as I am quite passionate about the subject. Apologies for any typos as I am writing from my mobile x


    • Klara

      Why not name those high-end brands? I’m trying hard to be educated on this issue, and I think that’s something we need to know…

      • Kristen Philipkoski

        I agree … personally my policy is if a so-called luxury brand’s goods are made in China (or Bangladesh or Cambodia), I’m not going to shell out luxury prices. It’s possible their factories are just fine, but I’d rather not take the risk. I’d prefer to spend my money on brands that are transparent about the provenance of their goods, like The Podolls, Amour Vert, Erica Tanov, or I shop vintage. Yes those brands are more expensive, so I buy fewer things!

  3. Donna

    Sadly, this is nothing new. It happened in our country before there were rules about building safety and work conditions. The Triangle Shirtwaist fire was one of the deadliest in U.S. History.
    I agree that we need to think about where we buy our clothes. It is difficult for me to find clothes that are made in the U.S. That I can afford. I used to shop at discount chains like Marshall’s or Loehmann’s and most all brands were made overseas. Now I wear a plus size and that makes my choices even smaller. If I want something attractive that fits I almost always need to shop online. It’s a problem that I’m sure many people have. We can avoid “fast fashion” easily enough, but even ordinary clothes are often made in bad conditions. How can we find out where they were made and what the conditions are? I’m open for answers.


  4. Gracious Store

    The working condition of some of these garment factory workers can be miserable, but what is their alternative? If you do not patronize fast fashion, where will these workers get their livelihood?

  5. Carla

    Saying this is a fast fashion issue is extremely elitist and classist. There’s some hella expensive brands who produce in China too for like 50$ and selling for 400$ and no one talks about it and we all know well why…Because they can camouflage it with status. And also, this makes feel like people with less money than those high end bloggers cannot be on fashion. (Lets not put second hand argument here because honestly most of the sucessful blogs just shop new things). Unfortunately we cannot get away from this type of thing on industry right now.

    • Kristen Philipkoski

      Hi Carla, you’re right, it’s not just a fast fashion issue, and personally I have no problem talking about expensive brands that might be made in sweatshops. I’m not interested in fancy labels on my clothes and I’m not elitist. To say there’s no way around the issue is depressing and not true. If more bloggers like Jorgensen speak out about factory conditions, if journalists keep writing about it, if consumers stop buying sweatshop-made clothes, brands will feel the pressure and make changes. Buy fewer, better things.

      • Carla

        This is a issue exists since the 80s and beyond. They ain’t gonna change because all this fashion world we’re in is based on aesthetic and status. Lets stop posting about successful blogs who post their 30 pictures of fancy clothes per week on instagram to get tons of likes because they need to be trend to survive. In order to this to end we need to stop consumerism culture. And this is not what people or the industry wants. Actually this is not what capitalism want and we’re on a capitalist system. So yes, I think this is pretty much illusional at least by the next 100 years.

        You talk about “stop buying sweatshop-made clothes” like there’s no culture behind it. People feel the need to buy those things in order to be a successful person. Society demands people to be trend. And yes, clothes that are not made in sweatshops, most of them are expensive and most of poeple can’t afford. Just compare the price of American Apparel and Forever 21. Yes, we could buy second hand, but them people wouldn’t feel on trend like society demands. The responsability shouldn’t be of the consumers, most of them are victims of fashion and capitalism. The responsability should be of people who work on the industry. But again, no one cares because without it they don’t make money.

  6. Eva Tornado

    This is ridiculous. Stop buying fast fashion and these poor women will lose their jobs. Sometimes I am so surprised how dense can be minds of people. People who created this project did more for these women than those who just simply stop buying FF.

    • Bike Pretty

      It’s a call to boycott the most powerful players in the industry. If H&M and other fast fashion companies upgrade their labor practices because sweatshops are no longer profitable, then it’s a win for everyone.

      The truth is that a very small price increase for those in the first world would have a large increase in the quality of life for workers in the third world.

      • Kristen Philipkoski

        The idea that we should keep shopping fast fashion so workers can keep their sweatshop jobs is like saying we should keep lighting fires so firemen can stay employed. Or we should encourage crime so police officers and lawyers have plenty of work. Thanks Bike Pretty, you explained it better than me.

      • Eva Tornado

        Incorrect comparation. Okay, we all stopped to buy H&M clothing. They closed plants in Asia. Have you ever been in those countries? Women lost their jobs and can’t find other opportunities. No single one. They are starving to death. Literally. Are you happy right now? We should find other ways to make FF brands to change the situation. Just STOPPING to buy you will not change anything. Welcome to the real world where corporations rule. Bike Pretty is, actually, right about some kind of boycott. But this action should be opened and well spreaded. Not just “stop buying” without saying anything. 😉

  7. Ashish Jatav

    Such an enlightening article. Everytime we wear garments of expensive brands, we should not forget that these are made somewhere in Bangladesh who get paid rearly less.

  8. Sameera

    I have got an idea while reading these article. The companies making their own products then those tailors are loosing their business. so why won’t they tie each other and share business. Both will get benefit right! isn’t it right?