BU Student’s Radiate Clothing Line Supports Mental Health
Kate Silvestri (Questrom’23) cofounded women’s loungewear company that donates to nonprofits
While brainstorming some ideas on a cocktail napkin one evening last August, BU sophomore Kate Silvestri and her good friend Olivia Marcantonio, a senior at Nichols College, came up with an idea for a clothing line that would not only be comfortable, but would draw attention to—and raise money for—an issue close to both their hearts: mental health awareness and advocacy.
“The idea itself came to me in a dream, and I really just couldn’t stop thinking about it. I just threw it out there, and we thought, why not?” says Silvestri (Questrom’23), who plans to transfer next year to the College of Communication.
Within weeks, the two budding entrepreneurs had launched Radiate, a collection of vibrant women’s loungewear. “We’re a small, woman-owned business focused on breaking the stigma around mental and physical health,” Silvestri says. “We want to just start a conversation around it and bring to light all of the niche things that come along with mental and physical health, because the two really go hand-in-hand.” It’s a subject Silvestri and Marcantonio know about firsthand.
They met through mutual friends and soon learned that they had both struggled with mental health issues in the past and shared a passion for mental health advocacy. They also discovered that they had a similar business acumen, which could lead to a strong working relationship.
To get their idea off the ground, Silvestri and Marcantonio used their own money as well as generous donations from family members. They shared their ideas with their relatives so they would know what they were supporting and make them excited about the new endeavor.
The two women launched their first collection, Radiate Positivity, this past October. Each piece, designed by Silvestri and Marcantonio, would highlight a different aspect of mental health. “Our first collection was very much attached to certain disorders. Green symbolized purpose, which we associated with suicide prevention and depression,” Silvestri says. “With the Purpose sweatshirt, we wanted to emphasize that although life has ups and downs, twists and turns, every single person on this planet has a purpose.”
Some of the other pieces in the inaugural collection were a Lotus sweatshirt (the lotus flower is a sign of strength and perseverance and the color—purple—is associated with eating disorders). They want the Lotus collection to be “a reminder to embrace yourself and nourish your body.” Similarly, a blue Cloud hoodie’s color is a reference to depression. “If you struggle with a mental illness there can be blue days. This shade is associated with depth and stability,” the website notes, and a Hope hoodie is designed in white “because it is associated with self-care, purity, and clarity.”
Radiate’s second collection, Another Day, launched in January, and its focus is on remaining positive during the road to recovery. Silvestri says the second line’s title “is about seeing every day as a chance to be better, and how each day is a blessing. It doesn’t really focus so much on specific disorders, but rather on maintaining a healthy mindset, recovery, and seeing every single day as a new chance.”
Radiate’s clothing is made by a third party company. Their first manufacturer was a Marcantonio family friend who made all of her college soccer team’s gear, and they worked closely with her for their first collection. Marcantonio’s father then connected the two with Corporate Image Apparel, which made Radiate’s second collection. “We went with them because they have more suppliers,” Silvestri says, “and we wanted to provide a higher quality product that gave a luxury loungewear feel.”
Silvestri and Marcantonio donate 10 percent of all profits from their clothing line to charity. “We want to give back, because for Olivia and me, it’s not about being profitable necessarily,” Silvestri says. “We’re just two college students trying to send an important message. No matter how big or small our donation is, it still means something to us, knowing that we can have an impact.”
For their first collection, the two decided to donate to support the Jed Foundation, a nonprofit focused on suicide prevention and mental health advocacy for teenagers and young adults. For the Another Day collection, they wanted to focus on physical health, so they decided to donate to the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts to help people feed themselves and their families. They plan to support a different charity with each new collection.
As for the future, Silvestri says they aim to release a collection of athletic wear next, later next month. The focus on athletic wear represents the importance of physical fitness, something that matters a great deal to Silvestri. “We wanted to eventually make athletic wear because we wanted to give people tangible things to help them get better,” she says. “Fitness is a huge part of my life. I’ve struggled with eating disorders and anxiety, and exercise has been a positive outlet for me and has helped me with recovery.”
Radiate has also teamed up with several influencers, including mental health empowerment speaker Ivy Watts (SPH’17) and Soul Cycle instructor Maddy Ciccone to spread the word of their brand. They hope to reach out to more influencers to help increase awareness of the importance of looking after one’s mental health.
Silvestri says she’s been pleasantly surprised by Radiate’s customer base. While she and Marcantonio initially targeted college students, they’ve discovered that Radiate has also caught the eye of an older demographic. “Radiate has resonated with a lot more people than expected, especially with parents, grandparents, and older people,” she says. “We expected more interactions from college students. It’s a bigger reach than we expected.”
Her hope moving forward is that the company will help diminish the stigma that she and her partner say still exists around talking about mental health, and encourage people to take the necessary steps towards recovery.
“Mental health is something that every single person is struggling with, and everyone can use more positivity in their lives,” Silvestri says. “We hope that if someone sees one of our sweatshirts, it will make them feel a little better.”