More than a year after their online reality series became a viral phenomenon, Norwegian fashionistas Frida Ottesen and Anniken Jørgensen are ready to head back to Cambodia—this time, not as wide-eyed naifs but as advocates of the garment workers they labored alongside in April 2014. Underwritten by Aftenposten,Norway’s largest newspaper, Sweatshop: Dead Cheap Fashion, has racked up over 7.5 million views worldwide, attention from international media (plus one Ashton Kutcher), along with the Norwegian equivalent of an Emmy. Not bad for a show that featured only subtitles in English.
Perhaps tellingly, the series, which gave H&M only the most passing of mentions, also received no small amount of pushback from the apparel retailer, which filed a complaint to the Norwegian Press Complaints Commission to protest that Sweatshop was “not representative in relation to H&M’s social responsibility and the comments give a wrong picture of the work we do around the working and salary conditions at our contractors.”
Jørgensen even ended up at odds with Aftenposten, she told Ecouterre in February.
Pål Karlsen and Joakim Kleven, the filmmakers behind the series, knew they touched a nerve, and they’re not about to let up.
“We are proud to say that series has made important contributions in creating awareness about the working conditions for textile workers. But it is still a long way to go before things are fair,” they said. “We need to keep telling the world about this, and that is why we want to make another season of Sweatshop. In the season 2 of the series, we will focus on what the workers, the trade unions and the activist ask for: a living wage.”
Now crowdfunding pledges on Kickstarter, Sweatshop: A Living Wage seeks to continue the conversation Ottesen and Jørgensen began.
“They want to go back to Cambodia, now prepared and on a mission: How can textile workers be paid a living wage? They will search for the good examples and find producers of clothes that offer decent conditions and pay their workers a living wage,” said Karlsen and Kleven. “Why do some manage and others not? What are the factories that produce for global brands hiding? Is it just about will? What can we as consumers do? And what about Sokty, their friend in Cambodia? Has she improved her life?”
The team is halfway toward its fundraising goal, but it need another $35,000 to bring the project to fruition.
“The first time we learned it was unfair. Now we will find out how to make it more fair,” Ottesen added. “Nothing will improve until the textile workers get a living wage.”
Jørgensen, ready to step into her role as psychopomp, cut to the chase.
“We can’t stop now,” she said simply.