Bump: Aaron Lit ’19, saving the ocean one blazer at a time

by Jacob Maguire | 2/7/18 2:05am

For many Dartmouth students, articles of clothing are items of practicality, convenience and self-expression. For Aaron Lit ’19, creator of a fashion line that promotes marine conservation, fashion is a means of environmental advocacy.  

Lit, who is pursuing a double major in economics and mathematics, grew up in Hong Kong and intends to return there after he graduates from Dartmouth. On campus he is a member of the Brovertones a capella group. He is also a Pagunucci Fellow at the Tuck School of Business. The program, a consulting project at Tuck, admits five undergraduate students each year and focuses on fundraising and marketing for a different nonprofit organization each year — this year’s is located in Lima, Peru. It is Lit’s off-campus endeavors, however, that could be considered most remarkable. Lit is an avid scuba diver and his passion for observing oceanic ecosystems has led him to pursue several unique projects such as photography, authoring a book and the launch of a not-for-profit fashion line. 

“A lot of the time, there’s a misconception that the ocean is a dark and empty place,” Lit said. “It’s really not — it’s super biodiverse, even more so than in terrestrial habitats. It became sort of my mission to raise awareness of the ocean’s biodiversity … for people who cannot witness it firsthand.”

Lit began scuba diving at the age of 10 with his father, a scuba diver with more than 40 years of experience, and grew to love it. 

“Scuba diving is much more interesting and [intimate] than snorkeling,” Lit said. “You see a lot of sea life up close.” 

At the age of 16, Lit took various photographs of undersea creatures in the Indo-Pacific Ocean for his book “Watercolour,” published in 2014 by the Aquatic Life Conservation Fund, a marine conservation foundation. 

“Writing and making the book was difficult,” Lit said. 

After he photographed marine animals while scuba diving, Lit had to identify and classify all his findings. He subsequently reached out to the Aquatic Life Conservation Fund and met with a graphic designer willing to help publish the book. 

Lit, in consultation with other Dartmouth students and with help from his fashion designer mother, started a nonprofit fashion line, MiaMira, to promote marine biodiversity and conservation. Prior to initiating the project, Lit had no experience in fashion design, tailoring or social media outreach. Today, Lit designs most of the garments and articles of clothing, such as dresses and loose jackets. Students at Dartmouth have provided him with advice about trends in American fashion, while a student at Imperial College London, Valerie Cornet, runs the project’s Instagram account, @miamira.fashion. 

Lit’s experiences exploring undersea ecosystems and photographs of marine organisms have strongly influenced his designs. 

“These fashion designs and garments were inspired by marine life,” Lit said. “They act as catalysts for marine biodiversity, and I hope to use my fashion line to raise awareness.”

From Lit’s perspective, fashion design provides a unique platform to promote environmental causes. 

“In my view, the most effective way to raise awareness about the environment is not through science, but through visuals,” Lit said. “Objects like clothing are [relatable] to us. Fashion is exclusively human and is fundamental to our identities.” 

Lit encourages other students who are interested in social entrepreneurship to take advantage of “untapped resources.”

“Look for spaces and forms of media that have been largely untapped, from fashion design to toilet paper,” Lit said. “Also, apply your advocacy to what you are most passionate about.” 

Ultimately, Lit hopes that his book and fashion line will lead students to be more cognizant of the environmental impacts of daily actions. He suggested that students make small changes in their lives, such as swapping out plastic bags for reusable totes at the grocery store, in order to be more environmentally friendly. 

“Small choices in our lives matter,” Lit said. “We often prioritize convenience over sustainability, and by adjusting those choices, we can better conserve the environment.”