OXFORDSHIRE, United Kingdom — Inspired by the last words of his late stepfather, fashion photographer Alexi Lubomirski decided at the start of the year that he wanted to use his platform to instigate positive change, to “leave this life a little richer than when we arrived in it.” He wanted to rally the fashion community into stop using fur, feathers and exotic skins.
Fast-forward 10 months and Lubomirski's initiative, Creatives 4 Change, is now working alongside industry titans like Inez and Vinoodh and Diane Von Furstenberg, as well as celebrities like Kate Winslet and Jennifer Aniston.
Lubomirski, who famously shot Prince Harry and Meghan Markle's engagement and wedding pictures, was propelled into the upper echelons of the fashion world early in his career. He began as an assistant to Mario Testino in 1999 before going on to work alongside Katie Grand for publications including The Face magazine, Pop magazine, and American Harper’s Bazaar.
But when Lubomirski was asked to photograph a high-profile supermodel for fur company Blackglama, he was faced with a serious moral dilemma. The company’s past campaigns have starred the likes of Elizabeth Taylor, Pavarotti and Diana Ross, all draped head-to-toe in mink furs.
It is not about being ashamed or vilified for what you did in the past.
“On one hand I was still at the beginning of my career, I needed to pay rent, live and pay off loans. On the other hand… how could I ignore the nonsensical idea that I would shudder at the thought of my dog being made into a coat, but would be fine if a rabbit, mink or fox was bludgeoned, gassed or anally electrocuted, in order for someone to wear it as a badge of wealth and luxury?” he said.
Despite protests from those around him, including his agent, Lubomirski knew declining the shoot was the right thing to do. From then on, he began making more career choices driven by ethics, rather than prestige or money. It was written into his contract that he couldn't shoot fur, with clauses banning feathers and exotic skins not far behind.
His career not only survived. It thrived.
On stage at VOICES, Lubomirski told his story to show how ethically driven decisions can have powerful consequences. He called on his peers to follow his lead and turn their backs on the use of fur, feathers and exotic skins.
What matters now is a choice… that we make to be creatives with a conscience.
“It is not about being ashamed or vilified for what you did in the past. It is only about being proud about what you will do and become in the future. What matters now is a choice… that we make to be creatives with a conscience,” he said.
“You have the power to inspire millions of young creatives to start off on the right foot at the same time as selling to a public that is more and more hungry for brands with ethics [the idea that fur is no longer aspirational].”
That, he said, would be an incredibly powerful legacy to leave behind.
To learn more about VOICES, BoF's annual gathering for big thinkers, visit our VOICES website, where you can find all the details on our invitation-only global gathering.