Love Island is truly the TV show that everyone can’t stop watching. Critics point to its lack of diverse casting, perpetuation of unrealistic beauty standards and predictably heteronormative storylines. Today, I’ve got something else to add to the long list of areas where Love Island could do better.
Unlike the majority of former contestants, who break up mere weeks after declaring undying love under the cameras and the sun, Love Island has been engaged in a long-term, if toxic, relationship with the fast-fashion industry. But with fashion being one of the biggest polluters on our rapidly warming planet, I think it’s long overdue to call out the red flags in this pairing.
To give a quick overview of fast fashion’s worst faults: the industry creates incredible amounts of pollution, generates harmful microplastics, and disposes of a lorry load of used clothing every second. Fast fashion makers may call themselves feminists in their advertising, but these messages of female empowerment aren’t always extended to garment workers who are alleged to produce clothes in sometimes dangerous, and sometimes deadly, conditions.
But how can I find one TV show guilty for a whole industry’s problems? Well, even viewers acknowledge that in 2021, Love Island’s potential to launch a contestant’s career as a fast-fashion influencer was likely at the forefront of most applicants’ minds. Forget finding love, or even enjoying a six-week summer holiday – the true winner is whoever secures the biggest brand deal following their villa exit.
But the contestants themselves shouldn’t be to blame – not when Love Island initially pulled fast fashion CEOs in for a chat. The partnerships that followed had a huge impact: 2018’s official sponsor, Missguided, saw a 40 per cent spike in sales every evening Love Island was on, and since I Saw It First took over the role in 2019, it credits the programme for “putting us on the map”.
Both companies deny any human rights violations, with Missguided stating it is “committed to respecting, protecting and advocating for the human rights of everyone – without exception – in the supply chain” and I Saw It First asserting it has “a strict zero-tolerance approach to modern slavery”.
One aspect of these sponsorship deals is that Love Islanders wear clothes from the official brand partner. With access to a constantly updated wardrobe, it’s no wonder we never see the contestants repeating their outfits. But as viewers, it seems we’re meant to keep up. To get the Love Island look, we are required to make endless purchases, which are rendered worthless the moment they’ve made their debut on our Instagram grids.
But in the few years since Love Island’s meteoric rise, a new generation of consumers has come of age. Research from Mintel reveals that 68 per cent of 16-24 year olds are making more ethical fashion purchases, shunning fast fashion in favour of second-hand clothes.
If you scroll past the plethora of polyester on your Instagram feed, you may come across slow fashion influencers, who post pictures of the same items worn several ways to remind us that re-wearing the clothes we own is actually normal.
Imagine how revolutionary it would feel to see Islanders gathered around the firepit wearing the same looks as last week. Imagine producers turning up the heat in the hideaway without endorsing an industry that’s contributing to the climate crisis.
Despite this extended critique, I’m actually a hardcore Love Island fan. So it’s with kindness that I send this message to the mastermind producers who have kept me glued to the screen for the past few years: if you continue your promotion of fast fashion, there may not be a planet, let alone a stunning Mallorcan villa, for us to live upon.