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#BDM: ‘Show up as who you are’: An inside look at House of Komandō

Murielle Bien-Aimé started House of KOMANDŌ, a clothing company that produces gender-neutral streetwear that promotes individuality and style.

#BDM: ‘Show up as who you are’: An inside look at House of Komandō
Murielle Bien-Aimé, the founder of House of KOMANDŌ, a luxury clothing brand that is true to its tagline, 'The Luxury of Freedom', is pictured here. The Montreal-based fashion creator designs genderless, sustainable clothing for people of all body types and sizes. She recently received a $10,000 grant from Futurpreneur and RBC through its Rock My Business workshop series. PHOTO by @libertedeluxe.

Pants that don’t clasp around the hips. Tights that fall. Thigh holes in jeans. Uncomfortable underwear. Finding the right fit can be a struggle, especially if you gravitate toward genderless styles.

Creative Murielle Bien-Aimé, from Montreal, knows this all too well. After all, she was that young adult in the stores, perusing aisle after aisle looking for a comfortable pair of men’s boxers to wear. She didn’t care for traditional women’s undergarments too frequently.

The harsh looks or puzzled stares didn’t deter her from chasing freedom; the freedom to find comfort was more pressing than the cashier’s typical line of questioning: so, who are the boxers for?

After years of scouring for representation in stores, the artist, photographer and filmmaker decided to pave the path herself. She started House of KOMANDŌ — a brand that exudes “The Luxury of Freedom”. Based in Montreal, the dynamic new clothing company produces gender-neutral streetwear that promotes individuality and openness.

“I discovered this feeling of freedom early on in my life, and it’s something that has driven me,” Bien-Aimé told Black Dollar Magazine in an interview. “It’s the most important thing and my No. 1 priority over everything. It’s the freedom to your political opinions; it’s your freedom to show up as who you are. The freedom to love whom you want to love. That’s the core of it all.”

For Bien-Aimé, “freedom is the ultimate luxury.”

Creating the ‘foxers,’ a genderless boxer

Looking back, the designer said she has always been creative. Her passion for art and design, clothing and fashion, music and dance, theatre and photography, and film and TV shined as a youngster. Her mother, who has Haitian roots, wanted her to be expressive in music, arts and theatre, and encouraged her to pursue these interests as a child.

A do-it-yourself attitude was something her mother also instilled. So, while Bien-Aimé didn’t take kindly to seeing little representation of genderless clothing in stores, it wasn’t surprising that she took matters into her own hands.

But the world of fashion was a new experience for her.

She took fashion sewing classes to immortalize her ideas and worked on the concept over time. She eventually familiarized herself with products and fabrics, analyzed colours, styles and body types, and used her creative talents to shape her vision.

In December 2020, the designer launched a collection of streetwear and accessories and unveiled a series of videos — the 40/20 series — to highlight a group of local Montreal artists.

The videos touched on ideas of one’s inner reality being a person’s outer form. It also highlighted some trials and tribulations of running a business during the pandemic, staying true to yourself or a vision, and showcasing the thoughts and minds behind the “Luxury of Freedom” slogan she coined.

And now, she is about to debut her latest product — a pair of boxers called “foxers”, designed originally for anyone who identifies as a woman. Birthed from years of shopping in the men’s section, her concept created a lane for individuals looking for gender-fluid undergarments.

“I had this idea long ago,” Bien-Aimé said. “I started it because of a lack of representation for women like me, but I decided to resolve the problem very recently.

“I was still buying my underwear in the men’s section, and I wanted to feel free and comfortable to walk into a section that was made for me and find underwear that would be awesome for me; that they were conceived with me in mind.”

The foxers will debut later this fall as part of her latest capsule collection, Bien-Aimé said, made from bamboo and other recycled materials. They will sell mostly online and potentially in a few boutiques.

“I wanted them to be flattering, and I wanted them to provide a little bit more support; something that was made for our curves. There’s an extra liner for menstrual support, and I wanted the softest elastic around the waist. I also wanted them to be made from sustainable material,” she added.

Movember collaboration and partnerships

Her work as a designer and creative has brought attention from major organizations and celebrity artists — collaborations she hopes to build on in 2023.

In August, Bien-Aimé received an Emerging Black Entrepreneur award from Futurpreneur and RBC through its Rock My Business workshop series and a $10,000 grant in recognition.

The three-part Rock My Business series started in 2017 and has been funded by RBC Foundation in support of RBC Future Launch, the bank’s 10-year, $500-million commitment to empower Canadian entrepreneurs. It assists future business owners with mentorship, online resources, and support in launching a business.

Selected from over 100+ applications, Bien-Aimé was one of eight grant recipients.

A fitted Klassik hoodie by House of KOMANDŌ, made from 100 per cent French terry fabric, modelled by Daouda Kente. PHOTO by @libertedeluxe

Her past projects include designing a sweatshirt for Movember, a charitable organization that supports men’s health, in 2021. “It is important because it touches us directly,” she said of designing the shirt for the campaign.

“I don’t have brothers but cousins, friends and mentors. I did not grow up with my dad, but I was fortunate enough to have solidly anchored mentors, Black men whom I greatly respect. Mental health has a lot to do with that as well, so these are causes I’m always going to support.”

Bien-Aimé also does business in New York — Bedford-Stuyvesant (Bed-Stuy) — where she spent time as a child and occasionally networks on trips to France through connected industry friends.

Looking to the future, Bien-Aimé said she’s hoping to strike new partnerships with brands that align with her overarching vision following the release of the foxers.