"One of the reasons I started my website is that I wanted a place for women to come together and dream. We women need to know that we don't have to hang on to an old dream that has stopped nurturing us -- that there is always time to start a new dream. This week's story excerpt is from my new book, It Ain't Over Till It's Over. When Kerry O'Brien couldn't find a pair of soft, stretchy underwear without the elastic trim that was clearly visible through certain pairs of pants, she invented her own. Her line of seamless, body-smoothing underwear and tanks has earned her over a million dollars in revenue." -- Marlo, MarloThomas.com
Wherever Kerry O’Brien goes, there she is, checking out other women’s bodies. “I notice every pinching panty line or suffocating bra strap,” Kerry says. And when she spots a problem, as she invariably does--muffin hips, pooch-y waists, droopy bottoms--it makes her smile. “It reassures me that my company is on the right track.”
Kerry founded that company, cheekily named Commando, in 2003 out of a belief that what lies beneath--seamless, body-smoothing undies and tanks--is what makes whatever is on the outside truly ogle-worthy.
Turning lumpy into luscious is a talent that has always come naturally to Kerry. “When my friends and I were single and in our twenties, we all wanted to wear these cute fashions,” she says. “But if you wore just any old bra and panties with them, they would completely ruin the look, not to mention make you feel self-conscious and uncomfortable.”
Kerry couldn’t stand that feeling--the awkward, distracting sensation of panty elastic digging into her skin, hose slip-sliding down her legs, a bra that felt like a boa constrictor wrapped around her chest. “I’m not actually obsessed with underwear,” she says. “I’m obsessed with comfort.”
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For years, Kerry O'Brien always noticed visible panty-lines on other women’s clothing; and even after searching the stores, she was unable to find a pair of comfortable, stretchy underwear that would disappear under certain styles of the clothes she wore. So she decided to take matters into her own hands -- and created an undergarment solution to the common problem of bunched, visible panty lines.
Kerry created an innovative line of seamless, barely-there undergarments -- cheekily named Commando -- that has already earned her more than a million dollars. It wasn't long before publications such as Allure, Glamour and In Style began featuring Commando undergarments in major fashion spreads. Here's a piece from Women's Wear Daily in 2012, starring Commando Control legwear.
Kerry's creation, the Commando line of panties, were smooth and -- most important -- didn't display telltale lines beneath the clothing. Retailers fell in love with Kerry’s brainchild -- like Saks Fifth Avenue in Beverly Hills, which gave Commando its own section in the intimate apparel department.
With the slogan “Better Than Nothing,” Kerry's tiny, body-smoothing undies instantly proved to be a huge success!
Growing up in a family of four sisters, Kerry was always surrounded by girly, fun fashions. Here, she shows off her sartorial flair in the 8th grade, at the O’Brien family farm in Vermont in 1984.
As Kerry grew older, she began taking a more serious interest in fashion, and would frequently take note of the areas in the womenswear industry that she thought she could improve. One of those areas was women's undergarments, where she was often distracted by the unsightly lumps, bumps and lines created by bulky underwear.
Kerry's foray into undergarment design began with a product called Takeouts -- soft bra inserts that could instantly boost a cup size, while still looking pretty and feminine. Here's an early trade show booth from 2003, in which Takeouts made its smash debut
Kerry then began her hunt for seamless, body-smoothing underwear that didn't have a bulky waistline seam -- but she came up empty-handed. “Every manufacturer I called told me that fabric would unravel if I didn’t have those seams, but I refused to accept that," she said. Rejecting the word “impossible,” she created her own model, with lightweight, skin-smooth fabric.
Once Kerry found a manufacturer to work with her to create her dream undergarment, she began stockpiling boxes of early samples -- in her basement home office!
Entrepreneurs do not live by the bottom line alone. In the midst of her Commando success, Kerry embarked on other new, exciting adventures -- closer to home. Here she sits on a beautiful beach in Maine with husband Ed, son Jack and newborn twins Sarah and Mary.
Commando’s products were met with great enthusiasm, not only from industry watchers, but from women who were similarly frustrated by the drawbacks of typical women’s undergarments. Soon, Kerry expanded her line to include seamless camis and a variety of underwear styles. Here's a shot of Commando in action, at a 2005 trade show. From left, founding employees Amy Lashelle and Lisa Lubas, alongside Kerry.
Kerry stands by her belief in Commando -- so much so that she's even modeled it. Do you see a panty-line? We don't!
Here, Kerry and co-worker Regan discuss upcoming ideas for Commando during a design meeting at the office.
Kerry founded Commando out of a belief that what lies beneath -- smooth and attractive undies and tanks -- is what makes whatever is on the outside truly beautiful. And since the company’s founding, she has never looked looked back. She has also found time for more personal fulfillment. Here, she and son Jack enjoy a beautiful day at the beach.
Today, Commando products are sold in 1,000 stores and boutiques across the country, including Bergdorf Goodman, Neiman Marcus, Saks, Nordstrom and Bloomingdale’s. Kerry is living proof that following your passion can lead to amazing success. “When I go into a store and see a woman looking at Commando products,” she said, “I walk up to her and tell her I own the company and that I’d love to help her find the perfect underwear. I just can’t help it.”
To read this story in its entirety--and to find out how Kerry created her hit underwear line--get your copy of It Ain't Over Till It's Over, on sale now!
So Kerry put that obsession into action. After successfully launching her first product--soft bra inserts that could instantly turn an A cup into a B or even a C, and were actually pretty (nothing like the sad-looking “chicken cutlets” lingerie departments kept hidden behind their counters)--she turned her gaze to panties, ones that didn’t have ugly seams and elastic trim.
“Every manufacturer I called told me that fabric would unravel if I didn’t have them, but I refused to accept that. I was bumped from one expert to another to another. And I didn’t stop until I found what I wanted.”
The final product: a thong with no waistband, no trim, nothing but soft, stretchy, comfy microfiber that laid perfectly flat against the skin and seemed to disappear beneath clothes. Kerry dubbed her panty Commando, with the slogan “Better Than Nothing,” and introduced it to the marketplace--and the tiny, barely-there undies proved to be another big hit.
Commando products are now sold in 1,000 stores and boutiques across the country, including Bergdorf Goodman, Neiman Marcus, Saks, Nordstrom, and Bloomingdale’s.
“A year ago, I became one of the few lingerie designers invited to be part of the Council of Fashion Designers of America,” says Kerry. “That’s unbelievable considering I didn’t go to school for fashion design. When I got the call, I cried.
“Today, when I walk into a store and see a woman looking at Commando products, I walk up to her and tell her I own the company and I’d love to help her find the perfect underwear. I just can’t help it.”
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To read this story in its entirety--and to find out how Kerry created her hit underwear line--get your copy of It Ain't Over Till It's Over, on sale now.
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