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Love Island goes sustainable?

Madi Hopper explores the implications of the show’s new eBay partnership.

The beloved (well, depends who’s asking) show Love Island has announced that, when it returns for its eighth UK season, it will partner with eBay to clothe its contestants. This is quite a change from the previous partner ISawItFirst – a quintessential fast fashion brand where dresses start from under a fiver – and an extremely interesting one coming from a show that is, let’s face it, more or less the spiritual home of fast fashion. With contestants almost never repeating outfits despite the multiple daily costume changes required by island life and one of the most famous ex-Islanders, Molly-Mae, having been appointed ‘Creative Director’ for fast fashion juggernaut PrettyLittleThing, not to mention assorted other former contestants regularly partnering with fast fashion brands on a smaller scale, it’s not a show that has history with slower fashion. It could be a sign of the times – the show’s target demographic, is, after all, the generation who made charity shops fashionable – although I would like to remind you that outside the Oxford fashion bubble, thriftingg is still somewhat outré, with a lot of people still turning to PLT &co. for their shopping needs. It could also be a bit of a PR stunt – as a show, Love Island isn’t exactly known for setting a good example for just about anything, so the sudden decision to eschew fast fashion seems rather out of character – albeit one which, interestingly, received far less attention both online and in the think-piece-y news than you might expect, given what a hot topic our shopping habits continue to be. The eBay partnership could be an attempt to clean up their image as a byword for single-use fashion, a reputation which wasn’t helped by the constant criticism surrounding Molly-Mae’s work for PrettyLittleThing – a brand which has repeatedly attracted controversy for its low-cost, low-quality clothing and even worse working conditions. 

Whatever the motivation, however, the end result is the same – eBay will become as over-populated as Depop and we shall all have to seek refuge at Vinted. Just kidding. Although there is truth in the idea that this deal could help popularise shopping second hand amongst those who (amenable to influencers) have previously been fast fashion loyalists, it seems unlikely that the show will make a big song and dance about sustainability, as it’s not really in keeping with their vibe. This means that we might see a bigger increase in more sustainable shopping as a simple trend, rather than being motivated by ecological concerns. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing – anything which helps wean people off the fast fashion mentality is obviously good – but it does present an interesting dynamic.

I, for one, will be interested to see where they go with the styling. One thing about having a single brand as your sponsor is that it gives the cast a relatively cohesive look – something that would be a lot harder to pull off from a trawl through eBay’s depths. If the contestants are allowed to wholly style their own outfits on the show, would it be from a big wardrobe stuffed with random finds ? Would they organise them by colour, decade, or style ? The potential for a ‘dressed in the dark’ moment looms large, especially given the current taste for maximalist fashion – a look which, though effective if well thought through, can sadly often end up looking as though you’ve lost a fight with a washing line. But – think positive! – it could also be an excellent chance to crack the homogeneity of the Love Island look – and, much appreciated by a material girl like myself, an opportunity to break the show’s long-running relationship with the flimsy polycottons so beloved of fast fashion retailers – boosting the positive environmental impact even further. Another potential issue is of the look itself – a lot of people use eBay to buy bits and bobs which are hard to find in traditional shops, but the Love Island aesthetic has previously been super of the era and interesting when you think that eBay (though a good refuge from getting absolutely reamed on Depop) isn’t necessarily known as a fashion marketplace. Of course, this whole shebang utterly fails to address the elephant in the room: the way Love Island functions as a twenty-four-hour-catwalk, with contestants refusing to wear even the same pyjamas for more than a few days. Arguably, if they wanted to advocate a truly healthy example of fashion they’d give the contestants some sort of capsule wardrobe and have them make do with that. But part of the show’s appeal is the constantly changing outfits – with the run being the best part of two months, the contestants would probably start to look a little like cartoon characters if confined to a finite wardrobe – and it’s clear that the visual stimulation of seeing conventionally attractive people in shiny new clothes is a not inconsiderable part of the entertainment function of the show.

 But at the end of the day, anything that turns people away from fast fashion is a good thing overall, and if Love Island is what it takes – who am I to question it?

Image credit: TaylorHerring / CC-BY-NC-ND 2.0 via flickr

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