As the days get longer and warmer, we draw nearer to Love Island season. Love it, or hate it, the public is undeniably consumed by the ITV dating show throughout the 6 weeks it’s broadcast onto our TV’s. A hot bed for objectification, racism, and issues alike, the season plays a significant role in the calendar year for fast fashion brands such as I Saw It First or Pretty Little Thing. Islanders are often sent an entire wardrobe to model on the show, product placing and encouraging the nation to buy these items. Following the embarrassment of the November 2021 PrettyLittleThing Black Friday sale, where items were selling for as little as 1p, Love Island has apparently started to get the ‘ick’ from fast fashion. The reality show has confirmed a contract with eBay as their new official partnership, dumping I Saw It First from the villa.
Fast-fashion is becoming increasingly less favoured by Brits, as a fifth admit to buying more second hand fashion compared to two years ago, when only 16% of Brits’ wardrobes were made up of pre-warn clothes. This is a step towards the ideal of a circular economy.
What is the circular economy?
The circular economy is a systemic approach that would restructure the world’s current economic model of buy, break, throw it away. The model of production and consumption incorporates sharing, leasing, reusing, refurbishing and more. This model aims to reduce the gap between production and the natural ecosystems we depend on as humans (for instance the water cycle). One pair of jeans requires 7,600 litres to make it through the production line. The world is running short of fresh and clean water accessibility. Nevertheless, it is common culture that if we get a hole in our jeans, we throw them away and buy a new pair, rather than repairing them ourselves or at a local haberdashery which would save thousands of litres of water as well as other fuels involved in the delivery process.
Fashion forums like Vinted and Depop are currently dominating the App Store. Depop has 30 Million+ active registered users in over 150 countries, with 90% of active users under the age of 26. The premise of these apps fits into the circular economy’s model. Once you have no use for an item of clothing, it can be repurposed rather than discarded in landfill. This could be in the form of reselling the item as it is, or for materials.
Microtrends are some of the largest contributors to climate change. The fashion industry produces 10% of global carbon dioxide emissions every year. 60% of clothes are made up of nylon, acrylic, polyester, and other synthetic compounds, that brands like boohoo or I Saw It First predominantly make their items from. With each wash of these items, microplastics enter the water supply, draining into the oceans. So, even buying from these distributors once negatively impacts the planet. Additionally, with the nature of ‘Next Day Delivery’, buying a new outfit for an event has never been easier, encouraging the ‘wear once, then throw it away’ attitude.
In recent news, by 2030 the EU hope that textile products will be durable and recyclable, free of hazardous substances, and produced with respect for both people and the planet. The EU will create this alongside the European Green Deal with the aim to make consumer goods more sustainable, longer-lasting, and easier to repair and recycle. ‘We want sustainable products to become the norm on the European market’.
Between Love Island making efforts to dump affiliations with fast fashion brands, and the EU taking steps towards a more sustainable European market, could these be positive and worthwhile actions?
The accessibility of fast fashion is what often causes it to trump sustainable, or second hand, pieces. Big brand’s stock is often available at the click of a button, and they often collaborate with companies like Klarna which allow part payments, making it easier for people to pay for items. With £9.95 for a yearly subscription to ASOS’s next day delivery service, it appears economically wiser to shop from big brands. It requires less foreplaning than shopping from smaller and more local brands, which may require a minimum of 2-3 days to hand-make and pack the item.In addition, it may be cheaper to buy from larger brands, as they can afford to cover the cost of things like packaging, which you would otherwise be paying for with smaller brands.
I was fortunate enough to discuss this with female entrepreneur Georgia Humbert, co-founder and CEO of Smoothie London, a brand run by women, for women. After starting the company in 2020 with her friend, Georgia has now collated almost 4,000 followers on Instagram and 100k likes on TikTok, all while raising money for The Pachamama Project.
‘As a female founder I knew I wanted to give back to our community, so we donate 10% of our profits to the Pachamama Project, which creates a distribute reusable period products to refugees. I think brands have the potential to be really influential, so as a founder it's my responsibility to promote initiatives and organizations that should get more recognition and the fight to end period poverty is a perfect example. As a brand, we aim to be as socially responsible and progressive as possible, from including hearing aids in our latest earring shoot to collaborating with other eco-friendly brands.’
I asked Georgia whether, as a woman in the industry, she truly saw a future shift in the way people shop in light of Love Island’s move to swapp fast fashion for a site that encourage the reselling of pre-loved items.
‘I see it from two perspectives, and I think consumers will be increasingly polarized into one of two categories. The first are those who are environmentally and socially conscious and who want to shop more sustainably. These are the people who are happy to buy second hand, fewer pieces, invest in higher-quality clothes etc. It's really encouraging to see so many more people be aware and passionate about improving their shopping habits and with so many more progressive brands coming to market, it will only get easier.
However, on the other hand, I think the demographic who constantly wants to be wearing the latest trends, who wouldn't wear the same outfit twice on social media and who view clothes shopping as a hobby/status symbol will remain. (I'd like to preface that this isn't their fault at all, it's a product of an industry that enables and promotes overconsumption). You just have to look at the number of Shein hauls on TikTok to realise that this isn't going to go away any time soon.
I think Love Island making this change is a HUGE (and surprising) step toward changing the norms around shopping. I also think the accessibility and desirability of clothes renting platforms like ByRotation is a really positive step as they allow people to change their style without the wastage associated with new clothes. I'd be interested to see if the behaviour of Love Island contestants is actually changed as a result of this, I think that will be the true test. This is because (without getting too technical) we have a diffusion of responsibility, so as individuals, although we may understand the importance of ethical consumption and how to change, seeing other people shop at fast-fashion retailers with no consequence makes us think that our personal behaviour isn't that important. That the effort and cost of changing aren't worth it if no one else is. I know I have been guilty of this too. The problem is if we all think it's not our personal responsibility to change, there will never be meaningful change.’
It is hard to make a conscious change, as this is more than choosing a different jumper or top in the morning. It is inevitably also breaking habits and changing mindsets. So, in what ways is it worthwhile to make the swap from big fast fashion brands such as Shein to smaller, more local businesses?
‘I think there's so much to be said for shopping small and intentionally, the first one being quality. 9/10 times an independent shop will have better quality because each piece is thoughtfully created and held to higher standards, than, say Primark. Every piece I design takes months and goes through strict quality checks before it is released and I see my customers as friends, so I really care about and take on their feedback. This just isn't possible for brands who are pumping out 100 new styles a day and who don't have the same desire to serve their customers. Secondly, I think shopping thoughtfully makes your style better. I know that sounds a bit counterintuitive but I feel that because of social media we're so inundated with short trend cycles that it can be really easy to lose our personal identity with clothes. I hope this shift means we move back to a place where our clothes are a reflection of us, and our personality, rather than what TikTok decides is in fashion that month. Also, I don't know about you but I kind of love wearing one-off/ vintage pieces because I know no one else will have them!’
‘We want every woman’s personality to shine through high quality yet affordable jewellery’, Georgia has proven this does not have to be at the expense of the environment or those working hard for little pay. Therefore, as the summer months approach, this is an opportunistic time to make the swap if you haven’t already. Search Depop for your summer tops, or charity shops for any new items you want to build into your style. It will be worth it for originality as Georgia rightly stressed, and sustainability.
Thank you to Georgia, if you want to find some more sustainable and quality pieces for your wardrobe, check out her socials and shop you can find her at:
@smoothielondon on insta, and
@smoothielondonjewelry on tiktok
Written by Katie Wills