Is the love affair between Love Island and fast fashion finally over?
After partnering with eBay, will the islanders have a new outlook on who they choose to work with upon exiting the villa —or will we see history repeating itself?
For many years the post Love Island formula to success has had a particular format — usually starting with promoting teeth whitening and a fast fashion brand on Instagram.
Previously, the sponsor of the ITV2 show has been ‘I Saw It First’, a huge online marketplace with worryingly low price points. ‘I Saw It First’ is owned by Jalal Kamani who also co-founded Boohoo, which has come underscrutiny for modern slavery and scores very poorly under the Ethical Consumer’s Rating.
Image credit: Ebay
We were due a change. To be promoting these types of brands to impressionable viewers on prime time television just doesn’t align with the environmental conscious mindset we’re desperately trying to foster as a society. It will be interesting to see if the same series of events follow the final, or if the eBay wardrobe may have opened the contestants eyes to the opportunities second hand fashion can bring.
The ITV press centre revealed that this season has been Love Island’s “most-streamed series so far, and ITV’s most-streamed title of 2022.” The show always manages to pull large viewing figures and therefore the contestants have an undeniable appeal to brands. Buyers assistant at ASOS, Molly Gordon says “They’ve been in the public eye for 8 weeks, viewers have been watching their lives and they get fixated. This is a great reach for brands.” It’s no surprise that brands act quickly, because once the show finishes and the hype fades away, the public attention shifts elsewhere. And of course, there’s always a few contestants that fall off the radar, so it's about picking those with longevity. Management and publicity companies have been watching carefully, assessing their popularity with the public and writing neatly tied up contracts, ready to be signed.
"The ITV press centre revealed that this season has been Love Island’s “most-streamed series so far, and ITV’s most-streamed title of 2022.”
Image credit: @make_nu
“I think it’s a huge step and statement for Love Island [to be partnering with eBay] but the majority of the population are stuck in this fast fashion approach of buy now wear now. It will take more than just a sponsor on a show to change people's behaviour,” says Gordon. Last year's winner, Millie Court, followed the well trodden path and nabbed herself a deal with ASOS (the company she used to work for), becoming the global face of the brand and a multi-millionaire. Contestants are now ultra savvy to what going on the show can bring. Of course, none of them care about the £50,000 prize money when they can get five times that for promoting fast fashion on Instagram.
“I think it’s a huge step and statement for Love Island [to be partnering with eBay] but the majority of the population are stuck in this fast fashion approach of buy now wear now. It will take more than just a sponsor on a show to change people's behaviour,”
However, this year there is hope for change. There’s huge potential in second hand clothing, with a market worth £2.4 billion that’s seen a 24% growth in 2022, reports industry market researcher Ibis World. But will the eBay sponsor have made viewers shop sustainably, or just created a buzz around the series? Tech and retail news outlet, Charged analysed the partnership to see if the partnership will have lasting effects. Google Trends data showed “There was a successful initial buzz to the partnership, particularly as this strayed from what Love Island is known for, however there was no long-term impact on customer engagement.”
Image credit: @amybannermanstylist
Whether this can be demonstrated through engagement figures or not, the show must be credited in proving the variety and versatility of second hand clothes. This has been in the hands of stylist, Amy Bannerman, who has curated an entire wardrobe from eBay finds with help from wardrobe revival service, Make Nu, who have led alterations and customizations of the islanders outfits. “We have worked together on restyling pieces such as turning a pair of normal denim shorts into micro minis, cropping jackets and embellishing with rhinestones,” says Daisy Marlow, creative director and co-founder of Make Nu. The outfits haven’t been drastically different, still plenty of thong bikinis and bodycon dresses, but that's good. It proves you don't have to compromise on style when shopping second hand clothing and as Gordon notes, “I have seen repeated outfits and shared outfits this year, which is so nice. I think it can show people that you can rewear outfits.”
"The outfits haven’t been drastically different, still plenty of thong bikinis and bodycon dresses, but that's good. It proves you don't have to compromise on style when shopping second hand"
As the viewing figures for this year have topped five million, Love Island is peak mainstream media and to give second hand clothing this platform can only be a positive step. “The reaction has been incredible from what we’ve seen. Apparently eBay has seen a 700% increase in searches for pre-loved fashion which is mega,” says Marlow. It’s reassuring that the contestants agree. Antigone Buxton spoke on the ‘Wednesday We Drink Wine’ podcast after being dumped from the villa; “I love that it was eBay as the sponsor as opposed to fast fashion. It was good because you just got loads of different brands.” Islanders have a choice from the eBay wardrobe, as well as two cases worth of their own clothing.
As we know, social media can be a cruel place with little margin for error and every word held against you. Whether right or wrong, influencers are often held accountable for who they work with, what they promote, post and discuss on their platforms. Therefore one slip up can cause outrage in the comments and attacks via DMs. This could be a reason that's warding off contestants from speaking out on sustainable fashion.
“Once you commit to being sustainable, and show that on social media, you create this presence, and build a community of those that want to be sustainable. And as soon as you sway from that, you will be hugely scrutinised because you’ve said one thing and the next day are wearing a fast fashion brand,” says Gordon. This all or nothing approach is damaging, and not what we should be encouraging.
“Once you commit to being sustainable, and show that on social media, you create this presence, and build a community of those that want to be sustainable. And as soon as you sway from that, you will be hugely scrutinised because you’ve said one thing and the next day are wearing a fast fashion brand,”
In spite of this, last year's contestant, Brett Staniland bucked the fast fashion trend and donned outfits from brands such as Orlebar Brown, Nanushka and Katherine Hamnett. This was a refreshing change for the fashion conscious viewers and Staniland has gone on to campaign against fast fashion, even protesting outside Molly Mae’s ‘Pretty Little Thing’ show, of which the ex Love Islander was made Creative Director in 2021. “I think as influencers they have a choice to promote sustainability or not. But I think an easier and quicker choice, especially to make money, is not the sustainability route,” says Gordon.
Business and tech site Earth Web reports that 35-64 year olds are eBay’s biggest shoppers, and with Love Islands viewing ages between 16-34 it seems a good idea for attracting a younger audience to eBay. Millie Smith, founder of slow fashion brand Millie Jane says “Having a second hand clothing retailer as the sponsor for a popular show has made it ‘cool’ to shop second hand as I feel secondhand clothing has bad connotations for some people.” eBay has had a slight reputation for where you’d buy tired old furniture or a used tennis racket, not a party outfit, but this year's Love Island styling has hopefully proved many viewers wrong.
It's no secret that Millenials and Gen Z are making the most noise around sustainability and climate change. Market and consumer data site Statista reported in a survey this year that “18 to 24 year-olds are the most likely to buy products from a brand that has strong ethical and sustainable credentials.” This age group aligns with Love Island viewers, therefore the shift from a fast fashion sponsor has catered to this generation — now it's time for this same pressure to be applied to contestants. “Hopefully we could see some of this years Love Islanders strike deals outside of fast fashion and work with rental or circular platforms, especially if they want to raise their profile with the new gen,” says Marlow. We can’t continue supporting a show that generates a formulaic path to promoting fast fashion.
Let’s hope that once they’ve got their head around all of the attention, they are careful to consider their next career moves. Surely Ekin-Su is worth much more than a deal with In The Style.
Written by Holly Brookes-Smith.