Reality Show Puts Fashion Bloggers To Work In A Sweatshop

Sweatshop Deadly Fashion is just about as ominous as it sounds. The premise includes a group of fashion bloggers — Frida, Ludvig, and Anniken — who are placed far outside their comfort zones, and challenged to live and work in a sweatshop in Phnom Penh, Cambodia for a month. Right off the bat they’re exposed to some of the harsh realities that keep workers caught in a vicious cycle of poverty: low, low wages; insane working hours; and insufficient living conditions. That’s all within the first couple episodes.

As expected, some of the Sweatshop scenes are difficult to watch. This type of first-hand experience puts faces and names to the factory horrors we usually only read about, and gives us a look inside the homes and personal experiences we’re not typically privy to.

All the episodes are available online on Aftenposten with English subtitles. Watch the trailer above and click over for the full season.

Some good learnin’ right there. There are barely any factories in the US or developed countries, so there are generations of young people who cannot imagine doing manual labor along side their parents and neighbors.

I worked in two sweatshops when I was a teenager - Hasbro and Slater Dye Works, big factories located in Pawtucket Rhode Island. At Hasbro, 12 of us would stand on a long assembly line/conveyor belt and build thousands of Mr. and Mrs. Potato Heads, G.I. Joes, baby toys, etc. The factory was loud, hot, and full of illegal immigrant women. Factory managers would inspect our lunch boxes and bags for stolen toys. Not fun, but I needed to work at the time. Slater Dye was also a large, dirty, brick factory in RI. I was a ‘wide-tube operator’ and inspected huge rolls of fabric. The rolls were about 15 feet wide, held thousands of square feet of printed fabric, and were moved around the factory by special forklifts. The rolls were hooked up to a machine that would unroll the roll over a wall where I could inspect for burns, holes, and misaligned screen prints. The fabric would be shipped to secondary factories (like Ralph Lauren) where the material was cut and sewed into curtains, sheets, clothes, and other items. Anyway, factories are intense.


I created a series of four spot illustrations to be published in a magazine for the Tata Group. 

The artwork accompanied information about:

Skills - Tata Steel has one of the largest apprentice schemes in the UK

Efficiency - Using the same amount of steel, Tata Steel could recycle the Eiffel Tower and build three exact copies

Ubiquity - Every single commercial aircraft currently in production has Tata Steel in it

Extremes - The inside of a Tata Steel blast furnace is hotter than the interior of an active volcano



Scabal is perhaps the standard bearer for the global luxury wool industry. This is a company with a mission to re-establish the emotional connection between exquisite fabrics and their origins. A mission which The Rake is only too happy to support…

Read the full story in Issue 38, available on the news stand now.

Inside Heath: Meet Neal

The dwindling state of US manufacturing—and particularly US ceramics manufacturing—was never more evident to us than when we began looking for a new production director over a year ago. At the time, Charlie, who had the role since 2007, was planning his retirement and the task of finding someone to replace him fell upon us. While we knew this wouldn’t be an easy challenge – Charlie was not only a well-loved and respected leader, but is also an incredibly knowledgeable engineer with decades of experience at classic domestic potteries – we weren’t quite prepared for exactly how difficult it was to find someone in the US with similar qualifications. It was an unforeseen setback.

The challenge was that there just isn’t that much high-quality ceramics manufacturing in the US – so much production has been off-shored. We could probably count on one hand the number of people in the US who had the requisite combination of ceramics manufacturing experience and leadership skills. And then, finding someone who also could grasp what we are about? It was going to take a lot of luck.

And then, one day, luck found us, in the form of a Brit named Neal Beardmore. A veteran of the UK ceramic industry, Neal learned about Heath on a vacation to San Francisco 5 years ago. What began as the most casual of email exchanges between Neal and Robin reached a head when, late last year, Robin broached the subject of bringing Neal on board to run production in our Bay Area factories. Did we mention Neal was then living in Stoke-on-Trent, England? 

Fast forward to the present day, where Neal has already implemented dramatic improvements to production life at Heath. Now living in the quintessentially Californian city of Sausalito with his family, Neal shares a bit about his background, why he said “yes” to Heath, and adjusting to life in the Bay.

What led you to pursue ceramic production? 

It was an accident, really. When I was young, I played a high standard of English football and thought that was going to be my future — I got signed to a team in Portvale at 12 years old, went through their training, and planned on becoming a professional footballer. Once I realized I wasn’t going to be the next David Beckham, I enrolled in an art college. I had a bit of time on my hands before starting school, so I interviewed for a job at the Wedgewood pottery, headquartered a few miles away from my parents’ home, just to get some pocket money. Turned out the guy who interviewed me was a massive Portvale football supporter, so we spent a few hours talking about the team and, a week later, I got an offer for a training management position. I never meant to have a career in ceramics, but I got a kick out of working in that business. When September came, I decided to stay with Wedgewood instead of going to college, and that was how it started.

Most recently, I was heading production at Denby, where I was able to steer the company away from outsourcing manufacturing to China by increasing efficiencies with what’s called a continuous improvement program, an idea developed by Iwao Kobayashi. It’s not rocket science, just using tools and techniques that are widely available, but they’re put in a package which allows businesses to strategically evaluate their needs. It was incredibly effective. 

After an experience like that at Denby, what made you decide to come to Heath, which is so much smaller?

I realized this was an opportunity I’d really like to take up after meeting everyone and learning more about the business during a week-long stay in SF shortly after Robin reached out. From a manufacturing management perspective, I realized I could make a big impact and affect real change. I’m like a kid in a sweet shop, not sure which jar to reach for first. It’s very exciting.

Plus, the Bay Area is a nice place, who wouldn’t like it? It helped that my younger son Jack was eager to come out here. 

What are your goals for Heath?

In the short time I’ve been here, I’ve implemented a lot of change in the Sausalito factory already in 2-3 weeks, physically. My goal is to prototype a center of excellence, to look at improving the layout aesthetically, for better flow and visual management of information. It’s about creating pockets to demonstrate we can do it a lot better and smarter with the time we’ve got, not by working harder. 

Just as important is the development and management of everyone on the shop team and factory floor. The team’s starting to realize we can get a lot more out of the process without spending more money or doing more work. It’s an exciting challenge in itself, to get the key message out to each team member here.

How are you settling into Bay Area life?

It’s been the most surreal 11 months. Five years ago, my family and I came for a visit to tour the West coast, from Vegas to the Grand Canyon, and I just happened to discover Heath at the SF Ferry Building. It was during that trip that my younger son Jack declared he wanted to come live out here one day, and now here we are. As soon as I decided to take this job, Jack started asking about 49ers season tickets, Giants season tickets. It’s been great.


Hot Metal                                                   

New Delhi based Bloomberg photographer Udit Kulshrestha recently spent time documenting the range of operations at the Jindal Steel and Power Ltd. plant in Raigarh, Chhattisgargh, India.

The plant, which Jindal claim to be the world’s largest coal-based direct-reduced iron facility in the world, can produce up to 3 million tonnes of steel per year. It contains a blast furnace, sinter plant, melting shop and several different kinds of steel mill. It also has its own captive power plant, mining facilities nearby and a cement plant that utilizes waste produced during steel manufacturing.

The International Monetary Fund predicts India will next year grow faster than Brazil, Russia and China for the first time since 1999. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s pledge to make it easier for businesses to invest in India could act as a trigger for growth and boost demand for steel.

India’s steel demand will probably grow at the fastest pace among the top three consuming nations in the world in 2015, based on an October forecast by the World Steel Association. India’s alloy consumption will probably rise at 6 percent this year, compared with 0.8 percent for China and 1.9 percent for the U.S., the World Steel Association said.

Photographer: Udit Kulshrestha/Bloomberg

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