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How the Love Island Look crept up on us all

Even Chelsea’s coolest locals are hooked on Love Island’s fashion. Feminist style writer Polly Vernon investigates

3 August 2022

Balenciaga mini dress, £1,450
Valentino Tan-Go platforms, £810 
Gina crystal platforms, £1,250 

While faffing about with last-minute swimsuit tweaks in advance of a dip in my local pool this week, I found myself overwhelmed by a compulsion to take the excess bikini top strings (designed to trail gracefully down my back), wrap them around my waist, and secure them with an unobtrusive sailor’s knot at the front. And so, I did. It was only when I emerged from the pool 30 minutes later, that I realised what I’d done: in re-tying those ties, I’d been subconsciously attempting to recreate the look of the belt that Love Island contestants use to secure their mic-supporting battery packs to their bodies, at all times, even when wearing bikinis!Why did I do that?’ I thought. Then: ‘Never mind, it’s a good look. I’ll do it again.’ 

There are those out there who consciously embrace the looks of Love Island, ITV2’s outrageously successfully reality dating show (season eight of which has just ended, leaving a gaping 9-10pm TV viewing hole in the lives of its many, many fans). Those who rush to replicate the exact fashion statements that its contestants showcase, first identifying pieces as they appear on screen via the medium of exhaustive Googling, then buying, say, the For Love & Lemons sundress actress Ekin-Su wore in episode 46, or the blue satin Shein cocktail frock that hotel waitress Indiyah wore in episode 53; or yelping in frustration because it transpires that the gold “X” necklace equestrian and footballer’s daughter Gemma Owen never removes, is vintage 1980s Jean Schlumberger for Tiffany & Co. and is rumoured to cost a cool £20,000. 

Love Island is a powerful selling tool. Its aesthetic is young and vivid and designed, above all else, to seduce (that, after all, is the entire point of the show). It is unsurprising that former contestants can earn millions of pounds in collaborations with brands and as Instagram influencers upon leaving the villa. So many people happily, unashamedly, and slavishly follow their fashion lead; being an ex-Love Islander – particularly a female one – is a potentially lucrative business. Just ask Molly-Mae Hague, finalist in the 2019 season, now rumoured to be worth £6m in Instagram earnings and through her deal as creative director of fashion brand PrettyLittleThing.

And then, there are those of us who find that the Love Island aesthetic has snuck up on us by a process of stealth and assimilation, even though we could have sworn we’ve barely watched an episode, or if we have, if we’ve found ourselves totally hooked, making up excuses to slip out of parties early so we can sneak home for that gorgeous, nightly 9pm start. And that is not what we’re going for at all with our vibe! We’re too old, too chic, too smart, too cool, and really not in the business of exposing our underboob (or side boob, or top boob)…

Yet, why is it that we now find ourselves dangling our sunglasses from lengthy, flashy gold chains (not unlike the one possessed by contestant and fishmonger Luca Bish), mysteriously drawn to cropped, boxy denim jackets (see model Tasha for details and try Rag & Bone to get one of your own), contemplating cargo pants for the first time since the early aughts (hello Paige at the talent show!). 

See also: experimenting with the concept of the cut-out dress (like Versace’s knockout Medusa dress), top, or swimsuit (all of them), wearing a men’s shirt as a cover-up (all of them) or, you know, casually wrapping our bikini strings around our waist (like those at Fendi and Louis Vuitton) because some small part of our brain has registered that those battery pack belts do actually add nice definition to a swimwear look (all of them, even the men)? 

It’s because the Love Island Look has come and got us anyway. But honestly: why resist it? It’s fun, it’s flash, it’s flirty; it’s daring and dramatic and (for the boys), it’s spliced with undercurrents of pure dandy. Nothing wrong with integrating a little of that into our day-to-day wardrobes.

Where does it end? Not with the finale of this season, that’s for sure. Just look at incoming trends – at Barbie Core (vivid pink, beautifully silly – tap into the look with Balenciaga’s mini dress), and slinky silk Michael Lo Sordo maxi skirts with crystal-embellished cut-out waist details. Look at the return of super high platform shoes (find yours at Valentino and Gina), and super-low waistlines on jeans, and you’ll see. It’s increasingly hard to know where the look of Love Island ends, and the real fashion begins.


Polly Vernon is a features writer, author and columnist. She has contributed to The Times, The Observer, The Guardian, Grazia and more. Her debut book, Hot Feminist, was released in 2015.

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