Pre-loved in the villa: is Love Island leading the sustainability charge?

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Love Island is back this week, bringing a new line-up of gorgeous, stylish young singles trying to find love (and fame) to our screens. This year, however, it’s not just the contestants who are different.

Our islanders will be swapping their usual wardrobe, which is constantly fed and replenished by the fast-fashion fairies, for a second-hand, pre-loved selection of clothing from e-commerce site eBay.

Love Island recently made the announcement that they will be replacing their fast fashion sponsors, including I Saw It First, with eBay in the hope of inspiring the show’s millions of viewers to shop more responsibly and sustainably.

Turning the tide on fast fashion

The news is somewhat of a surprise to many.

After all, a large percentage of Love Island’s alumni have gone on to sign deals worth up to seven-figures with the world’s biggest fast fashion giants, from Pretty Little Thing to Boohoo.

And their Instagram posts regularly displaying their fashion choices don’t quite scream ‘second-hand’ either.

Constant discounts codes and gifted hauls are ever present on their feeds, and with the price of clothing at these sites already as low as £1, the environmental impact of these brands over time can be catastrophic.

The fashion industry accounts for an estimated 10% of greenhouse gas emissions (human activity related), and if nothing changes, it could be expected to use up 26% of the global carbon budget by 2050.

With fast fashion contributing overwhelmingly to these emissions consumers and brands must act quickly to try and change the trends that have emerged over the last few years thanks to the promotion of fast fashion across the media and online, via shows such as Love Island.

Eat, sleep, wear, repeat

A survey by Barnardo’s found that one in three young British women consider clothes “old” after wearing them once or twice.

This culture of not being seen twice in the same outfit originated with celebrities and has since been adopted by influencers, who often proudly show hauls of dozens of pieces of gifted clothing from fast fashion sites on their social media channels – only to rarely, if ever, wear them again.

Until now, we’ve seen this in the Love Island villa, with clothing hardly ever being re-worn.

With the villa fashion being a big talking point for viewers on social media during the show, this reinforces this behaviour and ultimately leads to larger carbon emission contributions from individuals across the nation, who follow the mindset that they must buy new outfits for each social occasion they attend.

It’s estimated that extending an item of clothing’s lifespan by nine months will decrease its environmental impact by between 30-40 percent. On this basis, encouraging consumers to re-wear outfits could have significant impact on reducing viewers’ carbon footprints.

The influence the love islanders have on fashion choices is evident, and 2022 winner Millie Court is a prime example of this. Searches for “marble dress” rose by 127% after she wore one on the show, and I Saw It First saw a 67% increase in sales after a season sponsoring the show.

Past series have harnessed the power of social media to boost these sales, with the contestants and Love Island’s Instagram channels tagging brands and even specific items of clothing on social posts showing clips/scenes from the show contributing to a huge portion of these sales.

As a show which often creates new trends, shifting to a brand which champions choosing second-hand clothing and maximising clothing lifespans will hopefully push consumers further in the right direction towards sustainable clothing.

Not just a trend

It’s refreshing to see Love Island’s producers recognising their part to play in leading by example when it comes to making sustainable choices, particularly in fashion, given their staggering influence on the nation.

The recognition of this influence and the conscious attempt to try and use it for a positive purpose is a trait many companies and influential individuals should learn from and use to help contribute to the fight against global warming and other societal issues.

To succeed in this mission and avoid second-hand purchasing turning into little more than a fleeting trend, both Love Island and its contestants need to continue to choose sustainable partners and sponsors.

The potential danger lies in contestants leaving the show and partnering with fast-fashion brands rather than continuing to support more sustainable fashion choices.

With contestants and the Love Island Instagram channels being unable to tag the exact outfits for inspiration due to the clothing being second-hand, will we still see viewers seeking similar clothing from fast fashion sites?

Perhaps, to truly make a lasting impact on consumer purchasing habits, Love Island needs to focus on bringing in individuals who already fully support their values on sustainable fashion in an active way, who will be guaranteed to continue the message on afterwards.

Only time will tell if the show’s move towards sustainability is heard and supported by the Love Island viewing community – or whether it too is simply a trend that comes and goes like Millie’s marble dress of series 7.

  • Annabel Wilkinson,
    Account Executive