When it comes to reality television you can’t take your eyes off, Love Island takes the cake.
Each episode of the UK series is watched by nearly three million people, tuning in week after week to watch the horny chaos unfold as young singles crack on (that’s British for explore a romantic connection) in the Majorca villa. Activities range from the endearing – candlelit dates on the beach – to the ridiculous – themed challenges with erotic overtones such as ‘snog, marry, pie’ and ‘speedy sex positions’. But really, it’s the love part of Love Island that keeps us coming back. We root for our favourite couples as (hopefully genuine) connections blossom on the screen.
Even if you haven’t watched it, chances are you’ve heard about Love Island. It’s a hugely influential show, known for literally creating influencers. Which means it’s probably the last place you’d expect to find second-hand clothing.
In the past, high street brands have piggybacked on the show’s popularity and reach by sponsoring contestant wardrobes or becoming official partners for the show. But Love Island UK is doing things very differently this season. The show’s creators have ditched fast fashion sponsors for a partnership with eBay, the OG resale marketplace. The “islanders” will exclusively wear clothing sourced from eBay and their own personal wardrobes; a move that could change the way millions of viewers shop.
Film and television have a massive influence over audiences consumption habits. We can see the direct correlation between TV and trends in search engine spikes for items seen on Euphoria (black cut-out dresses), Bridgerton (corsets), Succession (luxury baseball caps) and even Squid Game (white slip-on sneakers). It’s not just the style of characters that we covet, but the specific items they wear – the pink swimsuit Cassie wore on Euphoria that stacked up a 500-person waiting list and the Michal Lo Sordo dress worn by Bond girl Ana de Armas that sold out four times in a row on NET-A-PORTER.
Love Island’s pivot shows us what might be possible if the entertainment industry used its power for good – driving sustainable consumption instead of supporting brands that wreck the planet. Executive producer Mike Spencer says this season’s sustainable wardrobe is part of a larger effort to reduce the show’s environmental impact “with more focus on ways in which we can visibly show this on screen”. This type of representation matters – if we see more sustainable options on TV, we are more likely to shop that way. The reverse is also true.
Historically, Love Island has had a tight and extremely profitable relationship with fast fashion brands. The show has launched the careers of many-a brand ambassador and driven sales for sponsors like PrettyLittleThing and I Saw It First, with the latter recording a 67 per cent increase in sales after contestants wore products on the show in 2019.
“The impact of Love Island and its stars across the UK is undeniable and together we want to inspire the nation to choose preloved first when shopping,” Jemma Tadd, head of fashion at eBay UK, told Vogue Business.
“Even if this means buying or selling one or two preloved items to start with, it’s a step in the right direction.”
It’s also what audiences want to see. Demand for second-hand clothing is at an all-time high, and eBay sells one pre-loved item every second in the UK alone. The resale market is booming thanks to the unstoppable combo of Gen Z, TikTok and Depop. Treasure troves of luxury vintage like TheRealReal, Vestiaire Collective and eBay’s Imperfects range also give shoppers access to planet-friendly designer fashion at competitive prices. Love Island’s decision to partner with eBay shows just how much second-hand clothing has taken over the zeitgeist.
In addition to their own personal eBay wardrobes, the islanders have access to a shared collection of pre-loved finds to promote outfit repeating and unisex dressing. This wardrobe is divided into four themed categories: ‘Love me forever’, timeless pieces designed to be worn for life; ‘Dopamine dressing’, colourful clothes to boost the mood; a gender-neutral collection called ‘Blurred lines’; and a ‘Y2K’ wardrobe that celebrates the best of the 2000s. After the finale, the clothing will be donated for resale to eliminate waste from the process.
According to Amy Bannerman, the stylist behind this season’s wardrobe, it’s all part of a push to promote a more individualistic, less trend-driven approach to fashion.
“eBay’s involvement will allow the islanders to have a more unique style and play with their clothing more,” she says. “We also want to prove the worth of trendless fashion.”
It’s a big departure from the cookie-cutter style of previous seasons and could have a lasting impact beyond the show as contestants follow the natural trajectory from reality TV star to social media influencer. A prime example of this phenomenon is series five runner up Molly-Mae Hague who scored a job as the creative director of PrettyLittleThing after the show and now has a casual 6.4 million Instagram followers. How cool would it be if this season’s alumni chose to promote sustainable clothing options to their huge followings instead?
This is the kind of action another former islander is calling for. “I would love to see more sustainably-minded contestants on the show to take this progress further,” sustainable fashion advocate and model Brett Staniland told Vogue. “Maybe the winner will become a brand ambassador for eBay instead of Boohoo”. Brett was the first ever islander who refused to wear free clothing supplied by sponsors on the show. He believes that Love Island is symbiotic with fast fashion, but hopefully, this season will change that.
Obviously, not everything can be sourced second-hand. For hygiene reasons, the contestants still need to BYO swimwear, accessories, footwear and underwear. This leaves a gap in the show’s sustainability strategy for brands making new products with the planet in mind, which got us talking about a solution that’s very close to home – RIISE Shop.
For those that aren’t familiar, RIISE is an online marketplace that brings together a premium edit of environmentally conscious clothing, accessories, beauty, jewellery, and lifestyle products. By partnering with a platform like RIISE, Love Island could dress contestants head-to-toe (undies included) in brands building a better future. We believe these kinds of commitments are the necessary next step in the entertainment industry’s sustainability journey, so we hope you can forgive the shameless plug.
To use a Love Island-ism, we are “buzzin’” about the show’s decision to partner with eBay, but it is just the beginning. We need to see more climate solutions represented in mainstream pop culture. It’s about time the brands safeguarding our future got the screen time they deserve.
This article originally appeared on RIISE.
Photo: Caroline Oswald