Kerry O’Brien launched Commando to fill a gap for chic but comfortable lingerie.
In 2001, Vermont-based Kerry O’Brien spotted a gap in the lingerie market for fashionable, flattering and comfortable lingerie. Leaving behind her career in financial PR, she set about creating Commando, and launched the brand in 2003.
Today, it creates a wide range of lingerie, alongside sleepwear, bodysuits and leggings – all designed with comfort and style in mind. Wholesale prices range from £12 for hosiery to £44 for full slips. A favourite of celebrities including Bella Hadid and Kim Kardashian, it is stocked in more than 1,000 stores globally. Its 19 stockists in the UK including Net-a-Porter, Selfridges and Fenwick.
In 2012, O’Brien was inducted into the Council of Fashion Designers of America – membership recognises the “ability, standing and integrity” of top US fashion professionals. Drapers speaks to her about the importance of comfort and learning from challenges.
What were you doing before you started the brand? My background was actually in financial PR and before starting Commando, I was a senior vice-president at the world’s largest PR firm [Edelman]. It’s a non-traditional background for someone in my profession, but that’s turned out to be enormously helpful.
What made you want to set up the brand? I always loved fashion but recognised this tremendous hole in the marketplace when it came to intimate apparel. When Commando started, no one was doing underwear that was comfortable, but was also really chic, beautiful and constructed in an innovative way. We were the first seamless thong on the market. No one had seen anything like Commando before we came onto the scene.
How would you describe the ethos of the brand? Commando is all about effortless style. We think you shouldn’t have to think about your garments. That they should be beautifully designed and made from world-class fabrics, and that they should last season after season. We have one of the most rigorous fit processes on the market, so everything about Commando is spot on.
What else makes Commando different to other lingerie brands? We are so much more than an intimate apparel brand. We make luxury-technical basics that are the foundations of your look. It’s why everyone – from stylists to designers – uses Commando.
What are some of your bestselling styles? Our fake leather leggings have taken the market by storm. Once you wear them, you’ll understand why. They have amazing four-way stretch and look like real leather.
Our classic thong is also still beloved and a massive seller, along with our cotton bikini and Butter hipster.
We also have a fantastic business with slips and hosiery — we have received US patents for their designs.
Have there been many unexpected challenges along the way? Of course. There are always surprises — some pleasant, some not. But every challenge teaches you something. You find a way around an obstacle and your business will be stronger for it.
Where do you want to take the brand in the future? The only thing I know for sure is that Commando’s potential is limitless. This brand can do anything.
Is there anyone in the industry that inspires you? I think the way Amy Smilovic reinvented [womenswear brand] Tibi is very inspiring. She didn’t like the design direction that the brand had been pigeonholed into, so she took an enormous risk, changed the aesthetic, and I admire her bravery and conviction.
What is one piece of advice you would give your younger self? I would go way back to middle school and tell my adolescent self that it gets better. It all gets so much better.
Favourite places to shop
In Europe, I love shopping at Selfridges and Le Bon Marché. The way that they approach retail and merchandising is so unique.
Last fashion purchase
A beautiful pair of Hermès boots that I will wear to death with Commando’s fake leather leggings.
Petit St Vincent. It was amazing.
Last book you read
My favorite author is Sarah Healy. I recently read her latest book, The Sisters Chase, and loved it.
Last film you watched
Crazy Rich Asians. I love a good comedy.
Before I had my driver’s licence, I mowed lawns. Once I had wheels, I drove straight to the mall and worked at [retailer] The Limited selling clothing.
I actually interned on Capitol Hill when I was in college and could have seen myself working in politics. I’m not sure I would describe it as my dream job, but I see so much opportunity to help people that I wonder if I will revisit this chapter in my life later in life.
What would we find you doing at the weekend?
In the summer: relaxing with my family at our lake house and tending to my tomato garden. In the winter: on the slopes with my husband and kids.