If you haven't heard of the Clermont Twins, you need to catch up. The sisters, Shannon and Shannade, have racked up over 700,000 followers on Instagram, have made cameos in Future videos (the most recent being "Real Sisters"), and were some of the select influencers to take part in Kanye's YEEZY Season 6 campaign.
The duo first came into the public eye when they appeared on Bad Girls Club, a reality TV show that brings together a group of self-confessed "bad girls" to live together, Real World style. The Clermont Twins were a glamorous force who mocked other girls for not being on their level. Their short-lived stint on the show resulted in dramatic exit when the sisters were asked to leave the show, after the other contestants destroyed $200,000 worth of their clothes.
But the Clermont Twins aren't just former reality TV stars. In a similar way to Cardi B, who featured on Love and Hip Hop two years before blowing up with "Bodak Yellow," Shannon and Shannade have harnessed their Bad Girls Club notoriety as a launchpad to build their personal brand — on their terms.
Now, the Clermont Twins have set their sights on the fashion industry. Last year, the sisters launched their label Mont Boudoir. The brand eschews the fast fashion Fashion Nova-esque styles that have taken over Instagram, instead producing a collection that is equal parts Western cowboy and gothy '90s starlet, in luxe materials like pony hair and silk.
They're also a physical presence in the underground New York fashion scene, sitting front row at Vaquera, and walking the runway for Gypsy Sport and Laquan Smith.
Over email, we hit up the Clermont Twins to discuss Kanye, Instagram censorship and starting a label from scratch. In true sisterly fashion, they replied as a single entity — read their thoughts below.
What was it like being involved in the YEEZY Season 6 campaign?
It was so unexpected, but we knew we would work with Kanye one day. We actually got the call when we were in Miami for Art Basel, and ended up leaving the next day to shoot. Everything happened incredibly fast and it didn’t fully hit us until we got back to New York.
Do you see a difference between “Instagram models” and signed models? Especially now since you’ve walked in NYFW.
Absolutely. We don’t label ourselves as Instagram models because we’ve done so much work on different mediums. In terms of modeling, “Instagram models” are sometimes women and men who don’t fit traditional modeling standards.
The world has definitely shifted and social media can be used to your advantage. When we first came to New York City, when we went to agencies, they wanted us to lose weight in order to be signed, we’ve been able to navigate around that with our following but traditional modeling is very different.
Growing up we were always skinny but we were always pretty toned and had boobs. Agencies wanted us to lose that but that’s just something we naturally always had, it’s really hard to change. It got to a point where we would try to be lazy and not be active, just to lose some of the muscle.
After just appreciating ourselves and really loving our body we realized that we weren’t going conform ourselves for agency standards, people just started to see us and like us for just being ourselves and being different.
Tell me about your experience on 'Bad Girls Club.'
It was a crazy experience. Being filmed 24/7 and being surrounded around new people was definitely a challenge because everyone came with a different agenda. A single month felt like a year. The main challenge was not really being able to communicate with each other without cameras being around.
The end was unexpected, and something we never imagined, and we would never do it again, but we definitely grew from that show, and we learned a lot. It allowed us to get an audience that really grew with us. We definitely don’t regret anything we’ve done because it's made us better and want to work harder to achieve our goals.
What’s it like going from having your image controlled by TV producers, to being completely in charge of your personal brand?
It’s so relieving. We always say don’t put your brand in anyone’s hand— to now be a free artist and enjoy what we do and be able to control our own content, and put out what we choose, it’s awesome. We’ve worked so hard.
What do you think about Instagram’s “community guidelines” censorship? How do you work around it?
It’s very hard. One of our YEEZY campaign photos got deleted during the debut and we re-posted it with more edits and it was deleted again. Instagram sometimes makes it difficult to express yourself and now with FOSTA being implemented, it’s almost gotten worse. FREE THE NIPPLES! Please petition it!
[FOSTA was implemented as an anti-trafficking bill, but many argued that it has made sex work more dangerous, while also threatening internet freedom. Read more here.]
It's interesting that you mentioned FOSTA in relation to Instagram censorship, how have things changed on the platform since it's been implemented?
People are starting to censor what they put up in case Instagram will start deleting their photos or pages. I already started to notice that certain hashtags that were popular now have no photos. But because it had a lot to do with sex workers, people don’t really want to bring attention to this because they’re scared people will think they’re associating themselves with that industry.
This is a huge matter that’s affecting a lot of people, we all need to come together and fix this. Instagram is starting to delete even bikini photos, this will change a lot for creatives who will have a hard time trying to express their art.
What made you want to start your own brand?
We would go shopping and try to find things that we could never find and it got to a point where we would just start sewing things that we wanted to wear. We wanted to make things that were uniquely us, things that weren’t available at any store.
Neither of you studied fashion design [Shannon studied fashion merchandising at FIT, while Shannade studied Strategic Design at Parsons]. Do you think it's better for designers to be formally trained?
We always made our own clothes growing up, so we learned and taught ourselves way before college came into the picture. I don’t think designers need to be formally trained but I do think doing your research and taking the time out to learn about your craft whether it’s the internet, mentor or books.
What was the inspiration behind the collection?
Our brand is inspired from our time in the south. It’s a bit of country style mixed with a bit of riskiness that’s still wearable in New York City. We made our collection all black because it’s timeless. That’s what we strived to create: timeless pieces. Even the chaps and sheer dresses that may seem a bit revealing are able to be paired with more conservative pieces and still come across as elevated. We wanted each look to be a statement, the kind of pieces that are impossible to forget.
Is there anyone in the industry you look up to?
Beyoncé! She is that BITCH! She is extremely talented and a true inspiration to us. And we love The Olsen Twins, they inspire us for the way they changed the fashion industry. They owned their image and managed to create a million-dollar empire. That’s always been our plan.
How do you see your career evolving?
Our ambitions have always been on fashion and acting. We want to continue to expand Mont Boudoir and even dabble in painting and drawing. We definitely want to star in movies or have our own show.
Lately, we’ve been fixated on music and who knows...maybe that will turn into something soon.
Next up, meet the Korean-American brand challenging stoner stereotypes.