I watch Love Island.
I know, I know, it’s totally not “on brand” for me. However (spoiler alert) I don’t spend every evening watching Blue Planet 1 & 2 on repeat. Instead, I watch the trashy, problematic TV show that is getting harder and harder for me to defend every year.
However,there’s no denying it, I am obsessed. I’ve been a devoted Love Island watcher for the past three years.
Despite all of the DELICIOUS drama and the ridiculously watchable story lines, just about everybody knows that the show has its issues. From lack of representation, to it’s huge problems with not supporting contestants once they leave the villa, there are a million reasons that we should point a finger at Love Island.
This year though, I’ve become aware of a whole new aspect of the show.
I’ve been watching it through different eyes: The eyes of someone who has learnt about just how messed up the fashion industry is.
Unless you’re a stronger-willed person than me and have never watched even 5 minutes of an episode, you’ll know that fashion is a huge part of the show. Sure, they don’t talk about it directly, but trendy clothes and swimwear are a massive theme throughout every series.
And with one episode this week getting 4.3 million views, there’s no doubt that Love Island is it’s own, gigantic marketing platform. The show, the contestants and the brand undoubtedly sell a shed load of fast fashion every single year.
That means that it contributes in a unique way to a system that promotes overconsumption, the mistreatment and underpayment of garment factory workers and the pollution of the planet.
Related post: The Fundamentals of Fast Fashion and Why it’s Messed Up
Let’s talk about it.
Instagram marketing on steroids
If there’s one thing that Love Island have nailed, it’s the “you either want to be us, to be with us, or to judge us” trope that reality TV (and the ‘gram!) does so well.
Every female comes in looking like they’d stepped straight out of a bloody Pretty Little Thing advert; hairless, slim, mostly white and oh-so-Instagram.
There’s no doubt that all of the contestants are bloody gorgeous, but they also all fit inside of a very narrow, conventional and restrictive version of “gorgeous”. Dissapointingly, the producers have no interest in changing that, either. They’ve had plenty of demand to make the cast more inclusive and diverse, but they simply choose not to.
Whilst the lack of diversity is certainly a society-wide issue and something that the media refuses to address as a whole, there’s no doubt that their choice of Islanders is related to what they believe is marketable: Society’s view of “sexy”.
There’s a reason that so many huge companies sponsor the show, right?
Jet2 Holidays, Samsung, Superdrug, Lucozade, Just Eat, Ministry of Sound and, of course, I Saw It First, as this year’s official fashion partner. That’s without even looking at previous years, which included fashion giant Missguided.
However, whilst multiple brands are sponsors, it’s only really the clothes and beauty items that you see the actual contestants using. A quick look at the I Saw It First app reveals how heavily the company has invested in its product placement this year.
As sad as it is, the Islanders represent what a lot of us, thanks to society, aspire to look like. So, when we’re given one small way to be like them through wearing their wardrobe, it can be tempting to click “add to basket”.
By playing on the common insecurities of women, there’s a constant underlying message of, “Want to be like these people? Buy this thing!”
Generating conversation = Generating sales
Fast fashion retailers are also very clever when it comes to using each and every Love Island episode as a chance to get people following and engaging with them.
Playing the part of every 18 to 34 year-old woman watching the show (aka their target demographic), they meme the crap out of each scene and rake in the RTs as a result. Plus, they get ex-contestants on as guests on their Instagram stories to give running commentaries.
They make their customers feel like they’re their friends. And who wouldn’t trust a friend?
Imagine if fast fashion brands cared as much about world crises and abuses of human rights as they do live tweeting about love island
— lyds (@lydiaeve97) June 26, 2019
This is just another example of one of the ways that fast fashion retailers use Love Island to boost their sales and profits.
After the show, the vast majority of contestants go on to live the sought-after “influencer life”, getting flown out to Bali, sent mountains of new products and given a discount code for as many fast fashion retailers as possible.
Basically, they live a life that I’m sure most of us wouldn’t turn our noses up at!
Love Island churns out influencers. They leave the villa as ready-made, marketing gold for brands and have deals chucked at them within days.
Last year’s winner Dani Dyer even went on to have her own collection with In The Style, whilst Olivia Buckland and Montanna Brown each have their own swimwear ranges. Islanders and fashion are clearly synonyms, so it makes sense to cash in on the goldmine.
More than a £50,000 prize
Whilst islanders may be fighting for the £50,000 winner’s prize and the post-show brand deals, companies are putting in the work for even more money.
Apparently Uber Eats forked out £5 million to tie up with the show, meaning that they must be expecting a huge return on their investment. And it’s no surprise based on the success of previous deals.
During last year’s season, Missguided claimed to have seen a 40% increase in sales during the times when Love Island was on TV. Their chief customer officer, Kenyatte Nelson, even claimed that nothing allowed the brand to reach their core audience of 16 to 29 year olds, aside from Instagram, as effectively as Love Island.
This is the brand that creates 1,000 new styles every week. They facilitate a level of consumption that is completely unsustainable and inevitably causes waste. The vast majority of this is not biodegradable and will be on the planet for much longer than any television series.
On top of that, it’s claimed that Missguided have used companies in the UK that paid workers less than £3 per hour. That’s only the very surface of how badly many garment factory workers are treated within the fashion system.
Missguided, their infamous £1 bikini and every other fast fashion retailer out there are part of a system that can be dreadful for people and dreadful for the planet.
Whilst there are a million and one things that contribute to the popularity of these brands, it’s hard to ignore the impact of reality TV and especially of Love Island.
Sponsorships, well-chosen adverts, offering deals to contestants once they leave the show and just generally getting in on the villa action is a profitable business. Fast fashion and Love Island are a marketing match made in heaven.
However, as TV-watchers and consumers, we have the power to vote with our money and not support harmful, unethical clothing brands wherever possible.
Even if we do put our ethical values aside slightly to watch the show…