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Love Island, Gossip Girl and Fashion’s Big Television Opportunity

This week, everyone will be talking about fashion on television and what’s shaping up to be a banner back-to-school shopping season.
Love Island Season 5 premiere. ITV Studios.

CHANNEL SURFING

  • Several shows with outsized influence over the fashion world have recently premiered new seasons and reboots, including Love Island and Gossip Girl
  • Shoppable television, where outfits worn by characters and contestants can be purchased by viewers, is increasingly popular
  • Brands have struggled to take full advantage of the explosion in streamed content, where product placement, rather than advertising, is the primary way to reach consumers

Fashion events are back. But if you weren’t lucky enough to get an invite to the Balenciaga couture show, or are still wary of mingling elbow-to-elbow with designers and influencers at a rooftop bar, there’s always a night home in front of the television. Networks and streaming services are offering up plenty of fashion content, and this being 2021, what you see on the screen is almost certainly for sale. In the UK, another season of Love Island is underway, and the contestants’ daring choices in swimwear and figure-hugging evening attire is already kicking off new trends (and perhaps single-handedly killing the market for white jeans). ITV, which airs the reality show, has introduced a “shoppable TV” service that alerts viewers when they can buy a matching floral print shirt-and-shorts set or physics-defying swimsuit on the spot. Fast fashion brands make a fortune off the show, whether it’s official sponsor I Saw It First or Boohoo Group, whose brands dominate many ad breaks. Reality fans can also tune in to Amazon’s Making the Cut, a fashion design competition featuring Project Runway alumni Tim Gunn and Heidi Klum, which premieres its second season on July 16. And the Bachelorette is sure to mint another crop of influencers as it winds its way toward its finale.

The big, scripted fashion moment this summer is the return of Gossip Girl. The original series, which aired from 2007 to 2012, spawned countless trends and was second perhaps only to Sex and the City in bringing luxury fashion looks to a mainstream television audience. Eric Daman, the original series’ costume designer, is back for the reboot. Still, it’s no easy feat creating lightning in a bottle twice, and other shows have gotten bolder in their fashion choices over the last decade (even if the industry hasn’t fully embraced the opportunity). The Gossip Girl brand is strong enough in the fashion world that labels have been angling for placement on the reboot practically since it was announced.

The Bottom Line: The pandemic made couch potatoes of us all, enhancing television’s already considerable ability to drive fashion trends. That, plus last year’s e-commerce boom, creates new incentives for brands to engage with the show of the moment.

BACK TO SCHOOL SPECIAL

  • Parents and their school-bound children typically start stocking up on clothes and supplies around this time of year
  • Consumer surveys forecast a big increase in spending, even compared to 2019, as the vast majority of students are expected to return to the classroom this fall
  • Teens are more likely to buy secondhand and from online fast-fashion retailers than they were in 2019

Retailers are predicting a banner back-to-school shopping season. Many parents are sending their children back to campus for the first time in nearly two years, and surveys show they are preparing to stock up on everything from glue sticks and notepads to tablets and headphones. The picture for fashion is a bit more complicated: one Deloitte survey shows parents expect to spend about what they did last year on apparel and accessories, even as overall back-to-school spending is projected to rise 42 percent. However, others predict a bigger jump, including an 11 percent increase in apparel spending forecast by a June Mastercard survey. The usual brands, from American Eagle to Nike, are no doubt counting on a sales bump. However, traditional retailers will see more robust competition for the back-to-school dollar. Resale sites have seen enormous growth in the last two years. Poshmark and Thredup have both gone public and Depop was acquired by Etsy. Online fast fashion has also continued to grab market share; Shein, which recently surpassed Amazon as the most downloaded shopping app, was still relatively unknown in 2019.

The Bottom Line: Retailers hoping to take advantage of a surge in back-to-school spending will have needed to plan ahead; maxed-out shipping capacity and factory backorders are delaying the arrival of some merchandise.

The Week Ahead wants to hear from you! Send tips, suggestions, complaints and compliments to brian.baskin@businessoffashion.com.

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