The ITV reality show Love Island last month announced a partnership with eBay, with this year’s contestants showcasing secondhand clothing instead of fast-fashion pieces. And just last week, former sponsor Missguided was bought out of administration by Frasers Group for £20m.
What does eBay’s move tell us about the state of the retail industry? And what will the impact of the partnership be on consumers, as well as other high street and fast fashion brands?
ITV wants to inspire its demographic
Love Island has, until now, been synonymous with fast fashion, having partnered with brands like Missguided and I Saw It First since its inception. Contestants typically continue in this vein after they leave, going on to front influencer campaigns for brands like Boohoo and Nasty Gal, and in the case of Molly-Mae Hague, even being appointed as the UK and EU creative director of Pretty Little Thing. Naturally, this trend has drawn criticism, with the show being called out for perpetuating a throwaway attitude towards clothes and contributing to the wider environmental and ethical issues related to fast fashion.
This year, Love Island has decided it’s time for a change, and is partnering with second-hand marketplace eBay as its sponsor. It announced that contestants will wear secondhand or ‘pre-loved’ clothing instead of new pieces.
Commenting on the news, the show’s executive producer, Mike Spencer said: “As a show we strive to be a more eco-friendly production with more focus on ways in which we can visibly show this on screen…. We aim to inspire our demographic and show that there are incredible finds to be had and how sharing is, in some small way, caring.”
While Spencer suggests that ITV’s partnership with eBay aims to inspire viewers, it’s also an indication of the shifting attitudes of young consumers – and the behaviour that is already taking place.
According to ThredUp’s 2022 Resale Report, secondhand fashion displaced nearly one billion new clothing purchases in 2021 that normally would have been bought new. Meanwhile, ThredUp found that nearly two in three consumers who shop fast-fashion say they aspire to buy more secondhand clothing and apparel instead.
Commitment to the cause will build trust with consumers
The pandemic has undoubtedly had a part to play in the changing priorities of consumers, with younger shoppers in particular taking the time to re-consider their purchasing choices, and driving organisations to be more purpose-driven.
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Nigel Naylor-Smith, Head of Retail and Hospitality at Fujitsu UK, told Econsultancy that this behaviour has since turned from consideration to action.
“The shift in consumer mindset and behaviour has been further exacerbated by COP26, which showed that sustainable fashion needs to be a priority to turn the tide on climate change,” he says. “Undoubtedly, the Love Island partnerships team will have been listening, monitoring, and understanding that millennials and Gen Zs are invested in the eco-movement, meaning their priorities are vastly different from previous generations.”
But, is it just a publicity stunt? Naylor-Smith suggests not, and that it’s perhaps too high-profile for ITV to risk tarnishing its reputation as an ethical broadcaster.
“By Love Island endorsing ‘pre-loved items’ it shows not only their commitment to the cause, but it also enables them to build trust with consumers – a vital trait for the younger generation who are exposed to vast amounts of information online. And if they’re seen to be greenwashing, they will certainly be called out and asked to produce hard evidence.”
Climate change is not the only reason the partnership could resonate with consumers, of course, with the rising cost of living also pushing people to look for more cost-effective alternatives to the high street or throwaway fast fashion. Indeed, ThredUp found that the number one reason Gen Z buy used clothing is to save money, followed by the desire to be more sustainable, then to have more fun when shopping.