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Love Island is coupling up with second-hand fashion

Love Island – which has faced backlash for promoting fast fashion brands – has collaborated with eBay to dress this year’s contestants in an entirely pre-loved wardrobe. 

Since it exploded onto our TV screens in 2015, reality hit ‘Love Island’ has drawn as much attention as it has criticism.

The show has been sponsored by fast fashion brand ‘I Saw It First’ since 2019, but it’s been known for catapulting the ‘fast fashion’ aesthetic to mainstream popularity since its first episode.

One could argue the show is more famous for churning out fashion influencers than it is loved up couples. The most notorious example is former contestant Molly Mae, who became Creative Director of fast fashion brand PrettyLittleThing in 2021.

Given Love Island’s love affair with fast fashion, some had predicted that ultra-fast-fashion behemoth ‘SheIn’, which has recently proposed a valuation of $100billion (more high-street giants Zara and H&M combined), would be the shows latest sponsor.

But in a truly startling plot twist, the ITV golden-child has announced a partnership with re-sale site eBay, a move which will see 2022’s contestants dolled up in nothing but pre-loved clothes – from first entrance, through Casa Amore, and (if they’re lucky) all the way to the final.

It’s a decision that’s overjoyed many in the fashion industry – particularly the ethical fashion movement online, which has grown with platforms like Fashion Revolution, and the growth of the ‘conscious influencer’.

Love Island has faced staunch criticism for its promotion of fast fashion brands. With Gen Z and Millennials – the show’s main audience – growing ever more concerned about what they wear and where it comes from, picking the planet over low price points.

Previous Islander Brett Staniland also called out the show for its ‘symbiotic’ relationship with fast fashion. As a sustainable fashion advocate, Staniland was the first contestant to deny Love Islands offer of a free clothing.

‘Before I entered the villa, I was offered £500 to spend with the show’s sponsor,’ he told Vogue Business. ‘Once I was insider, I was delivered duffle bags full of free clothes every three to four days, which I also declined. It was mind blowing to see so many clothes worn once and then discarded’.

This public pushback has most likely encouraged Love Island’s new ‘eat, sleep, rewear, repeat’ attitude.

While contestants will also be allowed to wear their own clothes this series, show runners are encouraging them to pick pre-loved pieces from an exclusive eBay wardrobe, provided especially for the Love Island villa.

The show’s executive producer Mike Spencer announced on Thursday, ‘As a show, we strive to be a more eco-friendly production with more focus on ways in which we can visibly show this on screen’.

Love Island’s decision comes at a time when fast fashion is still booming, despite growing concerns amongst young consumers about how their shopping habits are impacting the planet.

Shein continues to rake in millions by luring customers with celebrity endorsements and targeted ads, numerous flash sales and a constant barrage of styles that keep up with the changing landscape of fashion – over 2000 new pieces are uploaded to the site over an average 30 day period.

The domination of fast fashion can at times feel insurmountable, with the wealth and pervasive online presence of these companies shaping vast portions of the retail market.

But Jemma Tadd, head of fashion buying at eBay, says Love Island’s influence over buying habits is can be utilised to shift consumer perceptions around second-hand clothes. She told the Guardian last week:

‘Love Island is a worldwide phenomenon, nobody can deny it […] it’s a really exciting opportunity for us to change the conversation around fashion. I really hope that is going to lead to meaningful change in the industry.’

The reality series is known for driving clothing sales at an exponential rate. Previous sponsor I Saw It First saw a 67% spike in sales and a 254% increase in Instagram followers when it was featured on Love Island in 2019.

Former contestants Molly-Mae Hague and Millie Court consistently sold out items of clothing when they wore them in the villa, proving that Love Island really does push the needle when it comes to fashion trends.

This eBay deal will undoubtedly change the way we engage with preloved clothes, particularly as the y2k trend, a nostalgic nod to late 90s and early 2000s fashion, has seen young people turn to platforms like eBay and Depop to rework second hand clothes.

We can only thank the sustainable fashion gods for Love Island’s decision to partner with a re-sale platform, rather than giving a brand like BooHoo the space to sell more cheap outfits. This would undoubtedly have given fast fashion a chance to tap into current vintage trends that, by definition, close them off to young customers.

It’s an unbelievably big step, one that will help reduce the stigma that remains around second-hand clothing.

Those entering the villa this summer will quickly become the apple of the nation’s eye. Encouraging them to a repeat outfits is a powerful statement, one that unpicks Instagram’s relationship to fast-fashion, two spaces that have propelled Love Island to international success.

Social media is constantly encouraging us to buy new clothes and curate polished, ever-changing versions of ourselves. With the rise of the fashion influencer, this narrative has only grown more powerful.

We can only hope Love Island’s relationship with pre-worn clothing continues beyond the final. Who knows, maybe the winner will go on to partner with a re-sale site. It would certainly be a significant step toward dumping fast fashion for good.