It’s finally happened: fast fashion has been dumped from Love Island. Yes, Love Island, the show built on its unmistakable fast fashion aesthetic that revolutionised TV marketing, namely by turning its contestants into walking mannequins for brands like Boohoo and Missguided.
Given the dystopian hellscape we’re currently living in, you’d be forgiven for predicting that Shein (the fast-fash monolith that notoriously drops 1000 styles per day) would be the show’s next big-time partner. But it turns out miracles do happen. Love Island has just announced that its sponsor for this summer’s series is… eBay.
Shocking? Yes. But it’s a smart decision. It was only two years ago that Love Island’s former golden-girl Molly-Mae was appointed creative director of Pretty Little Thing, the ultimate long-game prize for any wannabee influencers entering the show. That dream turned sour pretty quickly, when it was revealed that PLT workers in Leicester were only being paid £3.50 per hour and Molly-Mae failed to campaign for worker rights or acknowledge her privilege (“we all have the same 24 hours in a day”, lest we forget).
Plus, we now know that secondhand clothing is the future. The pre-loved market is set to double between 2020 and 2024, while 20 per cent of UK consumers buy more secondhand clothing now than they did two years ago. It makes sense that Love Island would want to move onto greener pastures (and safeguard its ever-precarious PR reputation).
Nonetheless, this feels like genuinely monumental news. eBay has been flying the flag for slow fashion for years, helping 17,770 tons of clothes find new homes in 2021 alone. Thrifters are rightly obsessed with the website, but it doesn’t exactly scream “glam” for those that love the box-fresh newness of fast-fashion sites.
Love Island, meanwhile, has always batted for the other team. In 2018, the show doubled web traffic to then-sponsor Missguided and it continued to directly boost clothing sales for PLT, I Saw It First, Miss Pap and the rest of the brigade in the years that followed. And once they’re out the villa, the islanders keep the ball rolling. It’s no secret that most contestants don’t care about the £50,000 prize money; they want the million pound brand deal that lies beyond the finish line.
“The show is symbiotic with fast fashion,” former contestant Brett Staniland told Vogue Business. So if anything can convert staunch fast-fashion addicts, it’s probably Love Island. As Staniland puts it, the partnership “will have a massive impact on reducing the stigma of secondhand clothing, especially since the fast fashion consumer overlaps so much with the Love Island viewer. Maybe the [next] winner will become a brand ambassador for eBay instead of Boohoo.”
How might this actually impact the planet? Well, currently, fashion brands are producing clothes at twice the rate they were in 2000, in turn doubling stress on the environment. The industry is responsible for producing 92 million tonnes of waste a year and 8 – 10 per cent of the world’s carbon emissions. To put that into perspective, experts say we need to cut global emissions by 7 per cent each year to limit the climate crisis. That means a return to 2000-levels of clothing production, helped in part by us wearing more clothes that already exist, would get a huge chunk of that work done.
A target like that feels ambitious, but Love Island represents the pinnacle of pop culture for young Brits. It reaches around 3.2 million viewers in the UK and its influence is felt far further. Bringing second hand clothing to the mainstream’s mainstream surely signals the beginning of the end for our fast-fashion obsession, at least in the UK.
And hopefully, it’ll have a ripple effect, forcing celebs and influencers to keep up in order to stay relevant. That, in itself, would be huge. For years, influencers have surfed the fast-fashion wave, modelling clothes for brands via their Insta feeds. But what if those brands were no longer desirable? Could we really see a future in which influencers are sponsored by second-hand shopping sites and model more independent, sustainable brands? If so, it would mean a mass mindset shift: trading the immediate gratification of buying super-cheap new outfits for the satisfaction of finding the perfect pre-loved top or skirt after hours of trawling.
It sounds utopian, but it’s already happening. Bella Hadid is frequently responsible for blowing up Depop shops and small indie brands are increasingly popping up on celebs’ feeds. Whether they like it or not, this year’s islanders will begin their careers as part of this new generation of influencers, with help from newly-appointed series stylist Amy Bannerman (who also works with Dua Lipa, no less).
Which begs the question: what on earth will 2022’s Love Island cast be wearing? Some archive designer steals, maybe? Some Y2K fits? OK, maybe not. But it’s about time the classic villa glam had a shake-up. This summer will be the show’s eighth series and we all know it’s become a little samey (there’s only so many cut-out bodycons we can take). Nothing like a complete wardrobe makeover to have us glued to our screens for yet another year…