Lubomirski working with Concern Worldwide at a school in Kenya.
More than a photographer for fashion publications, Alexi Lubomirski came to the world’s attention when he was commissioned to photograph the official engagement and wedding portraits of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, now the Duke and Duchess of Sussex.
Interview by Madison Patterson.
My name is Alexi Lubomirski and I am a fashion and portrait photographer, author and poet. Over my career I have shot covers for various international Harper’s Bazaar and Vogue magazines. Last year I was asked to shoot the official engagement and wedding portraits of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, now the Duke and Duchess of Sussex.
What do you do, in your own terms?
My wife, Giada (@ecoshaker) and I have always talked about the fact that I work for the fashion industry that is the 2nd worst polluter in the world, after oil. With me being a vegan and my wife being an environmantal advocate, we had certain ethics in our private life that I wanted to incorporate into my work life. The challenge was, “how?” My wife told me that I need to use any and all influence I had in the industry to try and make it the best version of itself before I left it.
At first, I started to turn down or explain to clients that I could not shoot fur in any of my work. Recently, we added feathers and exotic skins to that list. With the evolution of social media, I realized that every creative person in the fashion industry had power to inspire, and therefore a responsibility, not only in their work, but also on the social media channels. If I had influence before, I certainly had more after the royal engagement and wedding photos, so I started an initiative called Creatives4Change in which I approached creatives within the industry to remind them of the power to inspire and create change.
Could you tell us about your work on Creatives4Change and Concern Worldwide? What are some challenges you’ve faced in your activist efforts?
Creatives4Change works on the belief that we are all incredibly blessed to be able to work in this creative genre, with incredible talents and artistry. We also believe that this blessing should not come at the expense of others; whether it is people, animals or the environment. Creatives4Change’s long term goal is to make the fashion industry the best version of itself that it can be before we all depart it.
My first initiative under the C4C banner is to ask “creatives” in the fashion industry to sign a pledge stating that they will no longer use fur, feathers or exotic skins in their creative output. Agreeing to not use these items in the creative work is one part. The other part is to be public about it when I launch C4C. We all have immense power to inspire with our creative decisions and I believe that as many people as possible need to know when someone is standing for something that is just. It can send out massive waves of positive change. I have recently started approaching people and am targeting such as photographers,( Inez Lamsweerde and Vinoodh Matadin have signed), stylists (Tonne Goodman from American Vogue who has signed), magazines (U.S. Instyle has signed), designers (Diane Von Furstenberg has already signed), actresses and actors (Jennifer Aniston and Kate Winslet have signed).
Difficulties I have faced are that photographers that I have spoken to have said, “I will stop photographing all these things when the magazines stop putting them in their pages.” Then the magazines will say, “I will stop promoting these items when the designers stop producing them.” Then the designers will say I will stop using fur, feathers and exotic skins when the public no longer demands it.” But the public’s demand will not decrease until photographers, stylists and magazines stop making these materials aspirational. Someone has to stop this cycle and this is your power of choice as a creative—We can be the leaders in making ethical choices in your work.
I am also an ambassador for Concern Worldwide. A humanitarian organization. All proceeds from my books (Diverse Beauty, Princely Advice for a Happy Life, Thank You for my Dreams,) go to Concern.
NYC Fur Ban march.
How has your life influenced your activism?
I think growing up in many different places, you are brought up understanding that you are more than just the nationality in your passport. Each one of us is a citizen of the world and we are all brothers and sisters, (animals included)… So you start to treat everyone as such.
What is the achievement of yours you are most proud of?
My family. Seeing my two sons grow and become caring humans. Teaching them to meditate and to be grateful for everything (they wrote the book Thank You for my Dreams, which just came out).
When you’re not working to save animals and empower impoverished communities, we can find you:
At home with kids or working on personal projects. I always have three on the go. I have a new photo book coming out in November 2020, a poetry book also in November 2020 and a Vegan interview/photo series project. Also I have collaborated with Movado watches to design their first vegan leather watch straps.
What advice do you have for creatives that want to become activists, but who don’t know how to get started?
I tell them to “remember your power”. Creatives by nature are insecure. That is where the magic happens. So I am trying to remind them of their power to inspire with the creative output. Everything we put out creates ripples of inspiration… either positive or negative ripples. So we need to be responsible with our creative voices. We can inspire people to think differently about things. Take one step. Don’t worry about becoming a hard core activist overnight. Just do one thing that you are able to do. That will feel good and you will then take a bigger step and then a bigger one.
What do you think is the most immediate problem creative industries need to take action against?
So many things, fair trade, living wages, environmental impact, animal cruelty…
How is your work making a difference?
I can only hope that my creative output in the traditional sense is positive. Positively representing women, championing diversity and choosing not to promote the use of fur, feathers and exotic skins. Outside the traditional sense, I try to inspire and teach young creatives through my you tube channel, work on projects like the vegan project to help turn the tide on the environmental destruction and genocide of animals.
Shooting on set for Allure Magazine.
What does the word “sustainable” mean to you?
Many meanings, but for our family, it is defined by my wife Giada @ecoshaker, who is the environmental backbone of the family. She teaches us to live in a manner that is as conscious as possible regarding creating as small a dent as possible on the plane with our everyday lives.
How do you educate yourself about environmental and ethical issues?
My wife teaches me about everything environmental. You need to do a feature on her, she is a fountain of knowledge. Ethical issues regarding animal welfare and the fashion industry are on my feed everyday simply because of who I choose to follow.
What are you currently watching/reading/listening to?
Reading a book I found on location called “IKIGAI, The Japanese secret to a Long and Happy Life,” by Héctor García.
Do you think awareness of environmental and ethical issues is influenced by media practitioners like yourself? How can the media and fashion industry do a better job using their influence for good?
I think that we ALL have a platform nowadays, so whether you have one hundred followers or one hundred million followers, we can all change hearts and minds and raise awareness for important issues. I think that fashion and media, just like the creatives I was mentioning before, have to realize that they hold the ear of millions of people and that we should all want to create a positive legacy to leave behind. We can create movements, we can inspire people to make changes. We just need to want to.
Behind the scenes with Lupita Nyong’o.
Who is an Eco Warrior in your life (a person who inspires you, one whom you look up to)?
My wife, Giada Lubomirski @ecoshaker. Last year we were in Sardinia on the beach and she was noticing the plastic in the ocean and the lack of education, so she decided to find out who to talk to. The next day, we were in the office of the president of the national parks and after an hour discussion, he gave Giada carte blanche to do whatever she could to help. One year on, this August, Giada has created Italy’s first ever ocean awareness week. There will be documentary screenings, panels, beach clean ups and many educational activities. Giada practices what she preaches and she is fighting for the environment every day, at home and around the world.
How are you an Eco Warrior?
By teaching people about veganism, trying to protect animals from needless cruelty and by doing what my wife tells me.
My mission is… to use any platform and influence I have, to inspire people in positive ways to change things for the better, whilst I still can.