Brett Staniland discusses Love Island’s decision to ditch fast fashion

We interview Brett Staniland, as he gives an inside view on Love Island and its decision to ditch fast fashion for eBay.

The explosive rise of fast fashion doesn’t have a single villain. As in the case of so many intersectional conversations, the impacts—environmental, social, economic, not to mention conversations over class, access, and size inclusivity— are deep and layered, as are the causes. That said, one influential fast fashion bedfellow is reality TV. Shows like Love Island, The Bachelor, and Too Hot To Handle have long driven fast fashion sales, partnering with brands in exclusive deals and promoting partnerships with contestants post-show.  

Last night, Love Island announced a new approach. The reality dating show will become the first to partner with eBay, bringing a more sustainable approach and conversation to the forefront. Contestants will shop a pre-worn wardrobe curated by celebrity stylist Amy Bannerman, the vision behind Dua Lipa, Sophie Turner and others’ looks. The contestants will also be encouraged to wear their own clothes.  

Brett Staniland, a model and sustainability fashion advocate, was the first Love Island contestant to refuse to wear fast fashion on the show. We called him last night, on the eve of the announcement, to discuss what the changes mean for the wider sustainability conversation.  

Eco-Age: Can you give us some background, as an insider in this space, on the relationship between fast fashion and Love Island?  

Brett: The show has run for eight seasons and each year, there is a really big fast fashion partner. They provide the wardrobe, outfits, and codes where you can get things off the website without paying. They are big funders that help produce the whole operation. The program then churns out loads of ads, and then produces influencers who go on to work with all the fast fashion sponsors. The winners get big deals with each of the fast fashion partners. This season, they are switching to eBay, and it will be the first season all the contestants will not use fast fashion.

I was the last contestant to enter the villa on the previous series. I was the first contestant to decline the clothes and working with the fast fashion brands. I took all my own clothes and I tried to champion some British brands, wear what I already have, and did not accept any of the clothes that were given to me. These [fast fashion] brands rely on exploitation to produce so many clothes and sell them so cheaply.

Eco-Age: What kind of influence do you see this decision having?

Brett: Because there is so much clothing and so many new items, the viewers think, ‘Oh, I need a new item every time I leave the house.’ You’ve worn it once and it’s old or posted a photo [with it] and its old. It just all ties into [our collective] consumption problem, overproduction, and massive textile waste. For the show to embrace [previously worn] clothing, there is a potential for a big impact.

This audience is the one we are trying to grab onto – it can become an echo chamber with the sustainable fashion community, all shouting at ourselves but not really breaking down the walls of the larger fashion community. We can change the buying culture of the next generation.

Eco-Age: How so?

Brett: There is research that shows that an issue with second hand clothing is relational legitimacy, and a reduction in ones’ self-worth. When you wear second hand clothing, there is this stigma still. Everyone is wearing new things all the time, and so when you have second hand clothes, people have the perception that they’re less desirable, old, dirty etc. This is an opportunity to show people that this is cool, it’s unique and it’s better for the environment.

It will be interesting to see what happens at the back end of Love Island this year and see where the influencers tend to go. Obviously, the fast fashion brands will try to target them, but it will be interesting to see if any of them choose to steer away and champion some other options.

Photo: Holly Falconer. Former Love Island contestant Brett Staniland at a protest outside Pretty Little Thing’s February fashion show, alongside fair fashion campaigner, Venetia La Manna.