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Campus Life + In the World

Selling Apparel to Benefit Ocean Conservation

Questrom student’s website, activism inspired by BU class

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During the summer months, we are revisiting some of our favorite BU Today stories from the past year. This week, we feature fashion, on and off campus.

The students in Alexa Pisano’s class on ocean preservation last year discussed several ways to show their concern for the environment. They could take shorter showers. Or turn the lights off when leaving a room. Or ask waiters whether the seafood on the restaurant’s menu was raised sustainably.

Pisano (Questrom’19) had another idea. “I thought it would be really cool to start a business,” she says.

Welcome to Deep Blue, her online apparel and accessories store, which donates 10 percent of each sale to ocean conservation. Besides that BU class, Pisano credits her late grandfather for inspiring Deep Blue. “He actually swam every single day until he was 76 years old. He loved Long Island Sound.…The most clear memories I have of my grandfather are walking along the beach and talking to him.”

Her site went live last August, after she’d navigated the legal requirements of setting up a business in her home state of New York. (BU housing officials needn’t worry about a fire hazard at her dorm: Pisano keeps her inventory at her parents’ house.) For now, she’s tithing a portion of each item sold to the international conservation group Oceana, but she’s open to finding other beneficiaries as well. She doesn’t want to specify how much she has sold so far, saying the business “is still not profitable, similar to many start-up businesses in their first year.”

The company “really is just me,” she says, although her family is “supersupportive and superhelpful when it comes to the physical shipping and handling.…I usually contact my mom; I send her info on what to ship and what to ship it in, and then I email her the address label. My parents own an antique business, so they’re frequently shipping things anyway.

“I’m lucky I have beautiful friends as well,” she says with a laugh, noting that her buddies, along with family members, modeled the long- and short-sleeved T-shirts for the photos on Deep Blue’s site.

Pisano orders the shirts, which make up the bulk of her sales, from CustomInk, an online retailer that customizes the shirts with Pisano’s own design, a wave shape with geometric patterns. “I try to choose eco-friendly options” in buying products to sell and in packaging and tagging materials, she says.

Deep Blue accessories

Deep Blue sells accessories in addition to its staple line of T-shirts. Photo by Alexa Pisano

“There are other companies doing similar things, just not for the ocean. I knew of a few companies doing it for endangered elephants or pandas, and I saw that they’re so huge on social media. And I knew that I had to really be on top of that.” To help draw attention to the company, she publicizes Deep Blue on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.

The 90 percent of sales left after her philanthropy goes toward covering costs. “I would ideally like to receive some form of income from this. But right now, I really am focused on expanding,” by spending on advertising and new products for summer.

Deep Blue is a story of education inspiring activism. During her freshman year, Pisano took the Writing Program course Oceans Past and Present. “Everyone knows that the ocean is polluted,” she says. “I had no idea to what extent” until taking the class.

The instructor, graduate writing fellow Benjamin Kochan (GRS’18), showed them “how drastically the abundance of our ocean as a resource has declined in the last hundred years,” she recalls. “It became clear that this isn’t a problem that we can push off to the next generation.”

“A number of former students have told me that the course convinced them to change their own behavior, such as avoiding unsustainable seafood,” Kochan says. “This alone is quite gratifying, but Alexa went above and beyond” with Deep Blue. “I am so proud of her efforts.”

Oceans Past and Present is a history course, with much time devoted to historical overfishing of the oceans, he says. Acidification of the waters from carbon emissions “has emerged as an equally dangerous threat,” he adds. Kochan’s former student says Deep Blue takes a hardheaded approach to such serious issues.

“This isn’t about, like, saving fish so we can work on the land and not interfere,” Pisano says, adopting a dreamy tone. “I completely believe in ethical use of the ocean as a resource.”

1 Comments
Rich Barlow

Rich Barlow can be reached at barlowr@bu.edu.

One Comment on Selling Apparel to Benefit Ocean Conservation

  • Lisa Tornatore on 02.22.2017 at 11:12 am

    Congrats to Alexa on developing a meaningful business venture. It is so nice to hear about students who are inspired by their instructors and coursework at BU to do good in the world!

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