Stylist Laura Jones had already racked up an impressive list of print and celebrity clients that included W Magazine, Vogue, Harper's Bazaar, MTV, Alicia Keys and Naomie Harris when an encounter with a little-known brand changed her life. An organic clothing company called Amour Vert, and its founders' passion for sustainable and ethical clothing — not to mention their assertion that fashion is one of the world's biggest polluters — helped kick off a perspective shift for Jones.
"It felt like I'd been living in a bubble," Jones says during a phone interview. "I was adequately horrified and immediately was like, 'Great, what can I do?' Then I set about trying to learn as much as I could."
It wasn't long before Jones ran into roadblocks, however. Despite her newfound interest and her skills as a stylist, she was surprised at how hard it was to find brands whose business practices and visuals were both up to her standards. She reasoned that if she, as someone who essentially hunted clothes for a living, was having a hard time sourcing them, the general public must be finding it even more difficult.
It was from that frustration that The Frontlash, Jones's recently-launched site focused on ethical and sustainable fashion, was born. Combining original interviews, essays and editorials, the site (whose name plays off of the ideas of "backlash" and "on the frontlines") seeks to make ethical fashion as easy to find — and as beautifully presented — as anything the mainstream has to offer.
"Let's be real: It doesn't matter how much you want to make ethical and sustainable choices, your clothing still speaks to the identity of who you are, and you want to feel an affinity for that brand," says Jones. "I didn't feel like I had found a resource that spoke to both my ethics and my aesthetics. The Frontlash is about filling that void."
Soft-launched in April, the site is currently a self-funded project that Jones runs with two other people and a gaggle of collaborators (and while she's a bit vague about the specifics of the business model, Jones underscores that her collaborators are paid for their contributions). After the site has built up enough of a clear voice, she says, advertisers will be brought in as a source of revenue. In the future, she can imagine expanding in other ways — a print edition of The Frontlash's evergreen content by spring 2019, perhaps with a conference series on sustainability to follow. For now, though, Jones plans to continue quietly and steadily building out the site's content well while taking freelance styling gigs on the side.
Her experience and credibility in the mainstream industry are part of what help that content feel truly unique in the sustainability space. So far, original shoots have featured actors Naomie Harris and Rebecca Hall and model Charli Howard, while articles have included essays by Tome co-founder Ryan Lobo and a first-person interview with buzzy up-and-coming designer Maggie Marilyn. And it's all wrapped up in an extremely easy-on-the-eyes interface that feels as design-centric as your favorite millennial-focused direct-to-consumer brand.
In short: The Frontlash isn't settling for the kinds of brands or names that only have notoriety in the sometimes-insular ethical fashion world, and it's not relying on the morality of its message to win people over in the face of lackluster design. Instead, it's seeking out creatives who are already respected in the industry at large, and enlisting them to help tell a more compelling and beautiful story about sustainability — one that's inclusive regardless of race, size or income.
"I think it's starting to be dissolved, but there has been an enormous stigma around things like sustainability and ethics," Jones says. "I think just providing beautiful visual language can really quickly dispel any of that stigma."
Despite her access to top-level talent, Jones still has to contend with the same challenges that face anyone interested in sustainability. Though she defines the term "ethical" as referring to "a combination of how [brands] treat people and planet," she admits that parsing the truly conscious labels from the merely greenwashing ones is tricky, and making sure that those brands are also ethical in other realms ("what does their advertising communicate? Are they just casting skinny white girls on their runway?") can narrow the options even further. But so far, that hasn't stopped her from finding designers she's proud to work with, and she's confident that the extra effort is worth it.
Whatever lies ahead for The Frontlash, Jones just hopes that it can be a way of inviting more people — from her industry peers to celebrity clients to the average shopper — into what she sees as a vital movement.
"It's really important to me to show that you have everything to gain and nothing to lose by getting on board with ethical and sustainable fashion," Jones says.