This week, Ruth explores the brand new series of Love Island and their decision to break up with the fast fashion industry.

Love Island is back for the summer, and I could not be more excited. The time has come for beautiful singles across the UK to pack their suitcases, splash out on the sunscreen, and pop open a bottle of prosecco as they enter the incredible villa.

Set in sunny Mallorca, the islanders will be living there for up to eight weeks, whilst being filmed under twenty-four hour supervision. The hit reality TV show has one simple purpose; to survive on the island, to potentially make it to the live final and win £50,000, you must couple up with someone. Whether that is for love or friendship, the islanders have no choice but to find someone they connect with enough to choose them at the famous recouplings, in order to last through the show. If they are left single, they are dumped from the island immediately.

Of course, whilst doing so, these twenty-somethings stay in a luxury villa, spending their days sunbathing and nights partying beneath a thousand fairy lights, and obviously, flirting and ‘doing bits’ with the other hot islanders. It’s basically a free holiday where you can meet the love of your life if you’re lucky. So it’s no wonder that over 100,000 people applied to be on this year’s show. Not to mention that when the first show of season eight went live on Monday the 6th of June, five million people turned their televisions on to watch the drama.

It seems like a dream opportunity. Eight seasons in, we all know now that being a contestant on Love Island promises you more than just a banging tan. The people chosen to be on the show find themselves with hundreds of thousands of followers on social media. Stars like Molly-Mae Hague and Amber Gill became millionaires just months after leaving the reality TV show. It is expected that those who reach the final will return to the UK with a verified tick on their Instagram handles, and popular fashion brands like Boohoo and Pretty Little Thing signing them to model their own collections. It’s a creative industry that young people would find incredibly hard to resist.

But, Love Island is not without its controversies. Not only have there been serious mental health issues intertwined with the show and its content, but in recent years, environmentalists and those opposed to fast fashion have rightfully been upset over the show’s connections to unsustainable clothing brands.

From 2019-2021, Love Island was sponsored by ISAWITFIRST, a fast fashion brand founded by Jalal Kamani, the co-founder of Boohoo. This meant that the brand provided an entire new wardrobe for every single contestant in the villa, which they could simultaneously sell online to consumers. For those three seasons, there were a total of a hundred and five islanders in the villas. That is a lot of clothes. All were designed and created unethically, with one of the worst environmental reports.

But the desired effect was reached. In the 2019 season, Yewande Biala wore a white floral dress on her first date with contestant Danny Williams which sold out on their website immediately, and had to be restocked several times. That same year, as Molly-Mae Hague and Tommy Fury reached their final date, the bright yellow dress she wore was sold to 2,000 people within ten minutes of her wearing it on screen. This meant a major boost in sales and attraction for the fashion brand.

But this year, it seems Love Island has had a change of heart, and has broken up with fast fashion. They have partnered with eBay UK for the 2022 series, in the hopes of promoting sustainable fashion. eBay UK has focused their brand to become one of the biggest online retailers of pre-loved fashion, with a rise of one piece of clothing being sold every second so far this year. It is their belief that consumers are becoming more aware of fast fashion and its consequences, and have been interested in selecting more environmentally appropriate designs.

Eve Williams, the chief marketing officer at eBay UK, had this to say: “We’re excited to be partnering with Love Island this year, as the show’s first pre-loved fashion partner and to flip the conversation around fashion. As one of the original homes of pre-loved, we believe that by joining forces with this incredibly influential programme, we’ll inspire the nation to think differently and make more conscious choices when it comes to their wardrobes. Whether that is selling a dress that is sitting at the back of their wardrobe or shopping for their favourite islanders’ second-hand looks – these small changes can make a big difference to driving circularity.

”This year, the islanders have a shared wardrobe in the famous dressing room, where they can select preloved designs that best suit their personal style and promote the importance of sustainability. In the first week we saw the original islander, Amber Beckford, wearing an emerald green, plunge-neck shirt dress that she brought from home. Similarly, contestant Tasha Ghouri chose to wear a vintage Champion varsity jacket one night, provided exclusively by eBay UK. Former star Afia Tonkmor wore a pale pink corset from House of CB via eBay UK. It is proof that these beautiful islanders can re-wear fashion and still make a statement.

Fast fashion is one of the biggest problems in the entire industry. It is a term that describes the creation of designs that are produced cheaply and quickly, before being sold in extremely high quantities. It focuses on the current trends, which can be bought for low prices. This is obviously a very attractive promise for consumers. But the problem is that such a fast production of said fashion has dangerous consequences for the environment, especially as the majority of clothes are returned every year; the returns market for fast fashion was worth £4.2 billion last year, with most of it ending up in landfill.

There is also the issue of fast fashion brands using severe manual labour in order to produce their clothes. In 2020, Pretty Little Thing was accused of modern slavery after it was uncovered that they were only paying their workers £3.50 an hour at a factory in Leicester.

Brett Staniland, a contestant on Love Island 2021, has been particularly vocal about the dangers fast fashion possesses. He reportedly refused the £500 voucher provided by ISAWITFIRST via the producers before entering the villa, and only wore the clothes he brought from home. Staniland, who was a model and part of the fashion industry before his Love Island entrance, claimed that it was his career that influenced this decision.

Since leaving the villa, he has been an advocate for sustainable fashion, even going so far as to attend a protest outside the Pretty Little Thing catwalk show earlier this year. He was quoted as saying: “With this cause, I’m drawn to the people who are exploited – sustainable fashion is about the planet, but I really have empathy towards the people within the story as they’re often overlooked.” It was a stand that evoked the desire for change in thousands of his Instagram followers, who expressed their support for the cause.

Love Island eradicating fast fashion this year is a huge step forward, and one that will certainly hold tremendous influence. With millions of people watching the reality TVshow every night, there is so much potential for real change. Even something as simple as Love Island choosing a new sponsor has evoked the promise to redesign our thoughts about consumerism and fast fashion as a whole, as well as showing us that it is perfectly fine to re-wear our clothes this summer.

When looking at these islanders showcasing their clothes from home, or those supplied by eBay UK, we can see that they look just as beautiful and stylish as if the designs were new, and that we can do the same. Just knowing that our choices this summer can be environmentally friendly and completely sustainable is the best look of all. And the stars of Love Island can return to the UK knowing that they have redefined the true meaning of influencing.

You can read more of Ruth’s work by following her on Instagram @thewriterruth.

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