Love Island has it all – sun, sex, suspiciously orange men, and now, shopping. Last week, the reality TV show announced that this year it will partner with the high-street fashion brand Missguided, not only to style the contestants, but also to direct viewers to shop the looks they see on telly through the Love Island app. In a move to capitalise on its captive audience, the institution that is Love Island continues to capture the hearts – and now wallets – of fans everywhere.
“It’s about having a direct hotline straight to their target demographic,” says Leanne Elliott-Young, fashion partnerships expert and founder of fashion futures studio CommuneEAST. She thinks that the collaboration, which allows viewers to either shop items in the “Love Island style” or, sometimes, the exact garments worn by the contestants, is a clever tactic to bypass the structures of influencer marketing, which, she says, we are beginning to trust less.
It might not seem like an obvious parallel, but a line can be drawn between what Love Island is doing for high-street shopping now and what Burberry once did for the luxury market – the brand’s See Now Buy Now format, which has since been limited to capsule collections, was a radical approach to seasonal catwalk shopping when it first launched in 2016. By reducing the time that people had to wait to get an item of clothing from a whole season to offering instant gratification, the brand gave the world of high fashion something a little like farm-to-table, except, well, catwalk to home delivery. Although it was difficult to do (and played a big part in disrupting the fashion calendar), it allowed people to tap into the excitement of the catwalk show and, much like Love Island is doing, turned shopping into part of the entertainment itself.
Love Island is tapping into the tastes of its “fandom” and allowing Missguided to speak directly to that base at a time when brands such as Marks & Spencer are falling short, because they are basing their offering on the high-street myth of the everywoman. “I think it’s about brands capitalising on the look and feel of this particular TV programme,” says Laura Saunter, retail editor at fashion forecasting agency WGSN.
In 2014, Fashion app TAGit tried to do this by letting users shop items from TV shows such as Keeping Up with the Kardashians and Scandal. But with visual search tools now embedded into many shopping sites such as Asos, which allow shoppers to upload or take an image and then search Asos’s products for clothing that is similar to what’s pictured, “you no longer need apps like TAGit to help you hunt down something you see on TV,” says Saunter. In an era where we are shopping in store less and online more this is, she thinks, a further development to making it easier to find exactly what you want.
Elliott-Young thinks that it’s also about the way that many people are watching Love Island while simultaneously tweeting and texting on their phones, making it a slippery slope to online shopping sites and apps. And seeing the clothes in action on the show helps them make quicker decisions, because it makes the online shopping experience a little more real.
Fashion websites are trying to incorporate this idea, too: “If you look at the majority of them now they have a video element of a model, so you can see what the item of clothing looks like when you walk in it,” she says. But Love Island goes one better. “People want to know what it looks like when they sit in it, or what happens with their swimsuit when they get in a jacuzzi. Love Island and Missguided are essentially putting the clothes in context.”
Whether this entertainment-fuelled, impulse-driven type of shopping, in a country where £3.1bn a month is spent on impulse buys alone, will only work with the low price points that fast fashion brands provide remains to be seen.
And only time will tell whether watching Love Islanders in swimsuits will actually compel us to buy one. Let’s just hope our summer purchase decisions won’t be as misguided as some of our romantic ones.