Have you heard about Love island’s new love affair? If not, here it is in a nut shell: The reality dating show ditched their long term fast fashion sponsors after facing backlash, and have turned to Ebay’s Pre Owned fashion for their new season 9 wardrobe airing this summer. As a designer passionate about sustainable fashion, I have some mixed feelings hearing this news.
My initial worry was how swiftly will the audience be directed to the secondhand clothing? Although coming from a great intention to promote sustainability, most of the buying decisions through the show will be made on impulse. For brands to transfer this impulsive decision into buying action, they have to cater to the client immediately and conveniently. And for fast fashion, speed is their favourite game. The majority of top fast fashion companies like SHEIN and BOOHOO have the ability to copy-paste and sell any style within a week. Given the slight bitter ‘break up’ with the show, I am sure the new competitors will be watching every garment in the villa trying to take back some market share lost.
Moreover, fast fashion brands have the finance and resources to produce garments at a fraction of the original price. Having a reasonable price to further justify any purchase is a huge push on consumers’ buying decisions. Not to mention Love Island’s main target audience is aged between 18-34. Whom although have a high buying power, but have also less financial freedom compared to other age sectors. According to Ebay’s in-house research, their current top-selling pre-loved brands are Louis Vuitton, Gucci and Levi’s, followed closely by Mulberry, Chanel, Nike and Adidas. While these brands fit the ‘buy less buy well’ idea of secondhand fashion, their price tag can still keep a buying decision at bay. One of the reasons fast fashion companies were able to make such great returns sponsoring the show was how low they can keep their prices. It was practically effortless for them to sponsor the show. If the new partnership with eBay promoted mostly luxury brands, a huge market gap will be opening for fast fashion companies to rejoin the picture with fast copies and cheap imitations.
As mentioned earlier, most buying decisions generated through this sponsorship will likely be made based on impulse. An impulsive decision usually results in a lower connection between the consumer and the purchased item. The eco-friendly idea behind secondhand items is that they will have an extended life cycle. If a fan bought a garment through the show purely to match their idol, they are less likely to rewear or keep the garment for a long enough period to keep up the sustainable tag.
Just as I thought this might be another Green Washing story, eBay has proven me wrong, to my pleasant surprise. The company already have a special e-commerce page for their collaboration with Love Island. There are currently 749 items ranging from slippers to designer bags. Furthermore, eBay will be promoting a ‘Shop The Show’ function alongside ITV and Love Island through all of their digital platforms. This will secure the audience in the loop of secondhand garments and give away fewer possibilities to fast-fashion competitors. And, overthrowing my original worry of eBay promoting only secondhand luxury brands, over 70% of the selection are under £12; matching their fast fashion competitor’s price point. There is no doubt that this has been a well thought after the campaign, at least for marketing.
There is too much in the cloud to consider whether the sponsorship will truly promote secondhand fashion. There are some huge promises in the campaign but could swing either way. The biggest being we do not know if the campaign is purely put in to clear the criticism, or if it is aimed to have a further impact. Both Love Island and eBay have received positive comments after announcing the collaboration. As for now, the show has certainly stepped a huge way forward from the previous drop of image, serving the purpose of rebranding. Observing the previous seasons, all contestants will receive suitcases full of new garments every week. With 13 million items of clothing going into the UK landfills each week, it’s almost certain reality shows like Love Island are a huge contributor. This brings another big question, what will happen to the secondhand garments after the show? Will they be somehow ‘recycled’ or destained for landfill like their predecessors? For now, the only announcement eBay has made is that they will not be providing secondhand swimwear, which has always been a huge part of the show. Although contestants will be encouraged to wear items they already own and style them with Ebay’s selection; there is no real guarantee over whether there will be a separate sponsor joining to fill in the juiciest part.
Of course, personally, I would love to see a long and happy relationship between the show and sustainable fashion. But to achieve this, it will bring in a much bigger picture outside of the show.
The previous relationship between Love Island and fast fashion companies went a lot deeper than what we had seen on screen. The majority of the contestants, especially the winners were signed immediately after the season by a sponsoring brand. With 2021’s Molly-Mae Hague now appointed as Creative Director of Pretty Little Thing as an example. Although the promotion generated by the show itself is huge, it is the lasting value of the contestants that bring on sales and fame for the companies. This value is through nothing but influence. It is unclear how eBay will approach this since the contestants will undoubtedly get flooded with offers from competitors after the show.
Another factor is what selection will Ebay put forward for the Love Island wardrobe. Although not promoting just luxury, Ebay’s current love Island page seems roughly put together and unselective. With a price range between £3.49 to £4,600, it’s either a ‘brand new’ designer handbag or a top by one of the previous sponsors. Whilst secondhand luxury items usually fulfil the multiple wear criteria for sustainable fashion, secondhand high street products do not. Simply because they don’t hold much value, or are not even made to be worn multiple times.
Hopefully, celebrity stylist Amy Bannerman will aid this in her new position as stylist for the show. I think there is an importance to promote the correct garments in order to show the contestants and audience that there is much more to secondhand clothing. It would be amazing to see some interaction between the contestants and their new secondhand wardrobe too. The more air time the sustainable range gets the more the show can successfully convert the consumers. Not just leading them to purchase secondhand, but also transferring the purchase into a conscious buying decision rather than impulsive.
Overall, I am excited about this collaboration. I am happy to see a multi-billion industry willing to rebrand and make a change. Whether it’s a baby step or in for the long run, I must say I am curious about this year’s Love Island more than ever.