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Love Island and eBay: How the Reality Show Could Model a Radically Sustainable Future for Its Young

A recently announced partnership between ITV reality show Love Island and secondhand e-commerce giant eBay sends a strong positive signal about prioritising sustainability over fast fashion.

After receiving a strong backlash against Love Island’s promotion of fast fashion brands such as I Saw It First and Missguided, the show’s executive producer, Mike Spencer, has announced it’ll be working with eBay in 2022 to clothe participants in its current series with “preloved” garments.

Love Island boasts huge audience ratings among young people. Some 43% of Love Island viewers are under 30, and 16-34 year-olds made up one-third of viewers of the series premiere on June 6. So the show has the power to influence young people’s shopping habits, largely through the official Love Island app where viewers can “shop the show” to find beauty and fashion items promoted by contestants. Producers hope that by linking viewers to eBay – where they’ll find a curated selection of “Islander-inspired” outfits – they’ll be encouraged to buy secondhand instead.

This is a small step in the right direction towards making sustainable lifestyles more accessible and fun. But more needs to be done in order to shift the pervasive association between popular culture and consumerism.

Attracting sustainable consumers

Love Island and its influential contestants, including PrettyLittleThing creative director Molly-Mae Hague, are known to drive fashion trends. In previous years, online fashion sales have grown by more than one-tenth during the eight-week summer period when the show airs. Early insights suggest this year will be no different, with eBay searches for dresses similar to those seen on contestants up by as much as 200%.

Sustainability advocates, including former Love Island contestant, model and fashion influencer Brett Staniland, have argued that the show endorses a throwaway attitude to fashion. For many, this was epitomised by the show’s promotion of Missguided’s £1 bikini, priced low enough to be considered disposable. In contrast, the show’s decision to partner with eBay should attract a new audience for the reuse culture message compared to the people sustainability messaging usually targets.

Taking it further

But the impact of this partnership should not be overestimated. Those who watch the show – but perhaps not the news – would be forgiven for missing it altogether, given there’s not yet been any mention of secondhand clothing on Love Island itself. In fact, what’s more likely to stand out is the appeal of a luxurious foreign holiday and the multiple beauty and fashion items pictured in dressing room scenes.

And reducing consumption is definitely not the message underpinning the show’s economy: with big brands advertising during breaks, in-app purchasing enabled across multiple social media platforms and contestants likely to become brand influencers once the show ends.

But if it was to lead by example, Love Island could ditch conspicuous consumption altogether. Since many unsustainable behaviours are driven by convenience, comfort and social norms, the show could promote collaborative consumption instead.

That could mean group cooking, which cuts food waste and appliance energy consumption, or a “fashion library” encouraging increased use of each clothing item. There’d certainly be entertainment value in watching contestants swap clothes or harvest local produce: or even slog through the British mud in a glamping-style scenario. Love Island already shows the good and the bad of dating – it’s time for it to get real about sustainability too.

Source: The Conversation

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