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Most people picked up a hobby over quarantine. Whether it was making sourdough bread, learning a new language (shoutout Duo-lingo) or finally using those dusty old rollerblades that have been sitting in the garage for years, isolation provided too much time and not enough things to do –– a huge juxtaposition from the fast-paced lives we were all living before.

For BU Alum Carina Lee, that quarantine hobby she finally had time –– and a passion for –– was sewing. No one in her family knew how to sew, so she turned to YouTube to learn.

“A few of my other friends bought sewing machines around the same time I did. It was so fun,” Lee said. “It was arts and crafts over Facetime because we can’t be in the same room together.”

Lee began small and made clothing items for friends and family. After receiving positive feedback she started posting clothing on an Instagram account: @cjl_reworks.

“Over time as I practiced, I picked up better (sewing) techniques,” she said. “I was like ‘wow, this is wearable.”

Besides allowing her to be creative and maintain “sanity” during the pandemic, reworking old clothing was a sustainable mission that didn’t contribute to the fast fashion industry. Sustainability has always been something Lee was passionate about.

“I started doing research and was learning about how much waste comes out of producing trend after trend,” she said. “The fashion industry is responsible for the majority of carbon emissions.”

Lee has always loved fashion as a way to express herself and find her “identity growing up.” After learning about the detrimental effects of the industry, she began primarily thrifting all her clothes.

“You can’t always find exactly what you want at a thrift store,” she said. “It was nice to have this skill where I could modify pieces to fit my body more.”

Lee only reworks clothing that she purchases from thrift stores or that customers give her on a commission basis.

“All these clothes would just end up in a landfill,” she said. “I wanted to create my platform to give people the option to purchase things that were carbon neutral.”

Lee comes up with designs on her own and sketches them out, or finds inspiration from other TikTok creators who also rework clothing. She says the process is more complicated than you would think.

“You have to be really particular about the fabric you select,” she said. “Certain types of cotton are stiffer or stretchier than others.”

After choosing a fabric, Lee will take measurements and cut pieces according to the design in her sketchbook and a customers request.

“I have to be really strategic about how I place the pieces to cut out,” she said. “That’s the odd part about sewing; it’s like putting together a puzzle.”

Lee graduated in January as a history and philosophy major. For now, Lee is taking a break from reworking clothing and has spent the past few months studying for the LSAT. Sustainability is still super important to her and she thinks she will return to reworking clothing after her exam.

She said while people have become more aware of how bad fast fashion is for the environment, there is still a message that needs to be “unlearnt.”

“Capitalism is based on the idea that resources are infinite, and growth is exponential, but that is not the case” she said. “We are consuming at a rate that is far faster and far greater than the earth can replenish its resources. There are creatures on this earth besides humans and they each have their own right to exist and live about their own lives. If humans keep up these detrimental habits of consumption, it will wreck a lot of ecosystems.

“I don’t think anything is worth that amount of destruction.”

*Carina Lee is a former BUZZ Photo Director*


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