I HAVE to admit, I’m a huge fan of Love Island.

Despite its repetitive nature and the existence of newer, more inclusive dating shows, there’s something about it that captivates me. It’s my summer ritual, allowing me to unwind and escape from reality.

However, amid the seemingly mindless entertainment, Love Island has opened my eyes to the dark side of fast fashion. We all know what fast fashion is, the ethical concerns surrounding the production of cheap clothes, the appalling working conditions, the exploitation of vulnerable workers and the environmental impact of it all.

Love Island has had a notable impact in promoting fast fashion by leveraging the influence of its contestants and the viewers’ eagerness to emulate the show’s featured outfits.

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These contestants, who have become influential figures in the fashion realm, frequently partner with well-known fast-fashion brands like Asos and Pretty Little Thing.

As a result, the desire to keep up with the latest trends and the aspirational nature of Love Island contribute to the continuous cycle of consumerism surrounding fast fashion.

This industry has faced growing criticism in recent years, and more and more people – particularly young individuals – are joining the movement towards second-hand clothing. It’s no coincidence that Love Island, since last year, has made a conscious effort to distance itself from fast-fashion partnerships and instead embrace the pre-loved fashion revolution.

The National: Ruchee, Jess, Catherine, Ella and MollyRuchee, Jess, Catherine, Ella and Molly (Image: ITV)

While this doesn’t mean that fast-fashion items are completely absent from the show, Love Island has taken a step towards promoting sustainable fashion choices. This shift aligns with the changing attitudes of viewers who are increasingly aware of the negative impacts of fast fashion and are embracing more sustainable alternatives.

Love Island was a revelation for me

It all started with those endless shots of the contestants getting ready for the evening, spending hours on hair and makeup and carefully selecting their outfits to make a lasting impression. I couldn’t help but wonder where all those clothes came from and what happened to them after they were worn once or twice on the show.

And so, I went down the rabbit hole of fast-fashion research.

The statistics surrounding clothing consumption in the UK are staggering. It is estimated that the country purchases more than two tonnes of clothing every minute, surpassing all other European nations. This excessive buying behaviour leads to a staggering impact on the environment.

To put it into perspective, the carbon footprint generated from new clothes purchased in just one month in the UK exceeds the emissions produced by flying a plane around the world 900 times. The rampant production of cheap garments also leads to excessive resource consumption and water pollution.

These fast-fashion pieces are so easily accessible and cheap that we should all find them suspicious. Thanks to the show, I discovered brands selling dresses for a mere £10 that I had never even heard of before – probably because, due to my size, I am nowhere near their marketing target.

People are constantly tempted with new collections at low prices, leading them to believe that they are getting a great deal.

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However, in reality, they often end up spending a significant amount of money on items they may only wear once or twice, if at all.

This is where, for me, the conversation around fast fashion becomes interesting. Sometimes the debate is made to appear as if the proponents of sustainability in fashion are criticising or blaming individuals, particularly those with limited financial means, for making practical choices based on their circumstances.

It’s akin to suggesting that individuals with lower incomes, who rely on their car for essential transportation to work, should be condemned for not immediately switching from diesel to electric vehicles. Such arguments simply don’t hold water and fail to consider the real-life challenges people face. And most importantly: no-one is really making this argument.

This attempt to frame the debate by attributing fallacious arguments to the opposing side reveals more about the individuals making such claims.

The National:

By attempting to undermine the relevance of the discussion, they are essentially trying to avoid confronting the uncomfortable truth that their participation in the fast-fashion system perpetuates significant human and environmental costs. It is clear that they are unwilling to acknowledge their position of privilege within the larger context.

By dismissing the concerns about fast fashion, they attempt to silence the voices calling for change and evade the responsibility to address the systemic issues at hand.

Recognising and accepting one’s privilege is a crucial step towards fostering a more sustainable and equitable future, and it is essential to have open and honest conversations about the implications of our choices and their wider impact.

Where do I personally go from there?

I’ve never been one to splurge on clothes. Maybe it’s because I was raised to see new clothes as a bit of a luxury. We always made do with what we had, took good care of our clothes and wore them until they practically fell apart. It was more about making the most of what we had rather than chasing the latest fashion trends.

I was never one of the cool kids at school anyway, so I didn’t have to worry too much about being fashionable.

If I’m being completely honest, there’s another reason why I’ve been hesitant to indulge in clothes shopping in my adult life: my own body image insecurities.

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The mere thought of walking into a store, finding something that should be my size (if I’m lucky enough to find it... the UK has always been better than France in that aspect), trying it on and realising it doesn’t fit triggers a wave of self-loathing.

I know deep down that beauty comes in all shapes and sizes, but society’s portrayal of what is considered beautiful often doesn’t align with a size like mine or above.

So, what’s my solution?

It’s quite simple: I prioritise wearing what I already have in my wardrobe. I take the time to explore the possibilities and create new outfits from the pieces I already own. By embracing a mindset of contentment and creativity, I find joy in discovering different combinations and styling options. If there comes a time when I genuinely need to add something new to my wardrobe, my first call is to turn to the second-hand market.

However, while second-hand platforms may seem environmentally friendly, they have their limitations. These platforms primarily prioritise low prices and convenience, often leading to impulsive buying and excessive consumption.

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Additionally, many items on these platforms originate from fast-fashion brands, raising concerns about their ethical and environmental implications. So I think it’s all about breaking free from the mentality of disposable fashion and the temptation of overconsumption.

Being an eco-conscious consumer can be challenging, particularly for those who wear larger sizes and seek out ethical fashion brands. Unfortunately, the reality is that many of these brands lack inclusivity when it comes to size options.

But one person helping me understand more and reflect on what needs to change is Aja Barber, the author of Consumed – The Need For Collective Change: Colonialism, Climate Change and Consumerism.

Her refreshing honesty and willingness to address uncomfortable truths – and call out people’s nonsense – are inspiring. I hope that more of us can heed her call to collectively question the status quo and advocate for sustainable and inclusive fashion.

Only this way can we impact the rules of the game and start implementing real change.