Shannon and Shannade could best be defined as soigné sisters. Known collectively as the Clermont Twins, they arrived to public consciousness on Oxygen's Bad Girls Clubin 2015. With their 40-inch tresses, Céline bags and two teacup Yorkie terriers, they ruptured the definition of bad girl, preferring instead to be "that bitch." As others participated in drunken stupor and effacing personal property, they were more concerned with distilling aspirational glamour. Too often reality television churns people into caricatures, but in real life Shannon and Shannade have always been just as glamorous as their on-screen personas.
The concept of glamour is often misinterpreted as a proximity to beauty and fashion. It is thought to be ephemeral, flitting between expensive things, partial to particular time periods. During the silent picture era, actresses replaced the drab desolation of the Great Depression with a concocted, scientific dream. Hair was perfectly coiffed, make-up was flawlessly applied, manners were expertly exaggerated. But glamour has always been something more. Anyone can be beautiful, that's not rare. Neither is talent. Glamour isn't just the silken walk that chills the blood when entering a room. It's the work the walk took. And work is something Shannon and Shannade know everything about.
With nearly 500,000 followers, their curatorial approach to social media and fashion has made them peerless. After graduating from Parsons and F.I.T., they debuted Mont Boudoir, a Western-themed luxury womenswear brand. On Instagram, they post photoshoots once a week, conceptualizing each image months in advance. With no management, publicist, or agent, they've done everything on their own, carving out their own niche.
Just after their internet breaking Yeezy Season 6 shoot, we met at their Mont Boudoir studio in Lower Manhattan to speak about fashion and beauty, exceeding expectations, and the real secret behind their success.
What was it like shooting for Yeezy Season 6?
Shannon: It was super random and exciting. There's not much we can say other than we're so thankful to be apart of something that's incredibly disruptive, diverse, and iconic. Kim and Kanye are always ahead of the curve and influence our generation. To be thought of by the, made us really proud. It's always dope to be acknowledged.
When did you first start modeling?
Shannon: 14! I remember sitting our parents down and telling them we were about to do everything we could. Everyone would say we should be in catalogues and movies but our parents were really scared about that. We had done little shows with our aunt and smaller things for family friends, but they wanted us to take school seriously. But at 14, everything just clicked. Our grades were good and that was all our parents really wanted. In Georgia you can get your permit really young and when we got that, it felt like now or never. We started going after everything — acting, modeling, competitions. We didn't want to be in a box.
Shannade: Exactly. Shannon and I didn't give a fuck about what they would say, we just told them the plan. We'd pay our friends to take us to the city and we applied for everything. College fashion shows. Every single casting we could find. We were in hair magazines, teen catalogues, modeling for Bronner Brothers, in prom dresses, everything. Atlanta is so small and that's how we made a name for ourselves way before social media.
We even had a cameo in Future's "Same Damn Time" video, way before "Real Sisters." Then we started doing stand-ins for films. We won a contract to go to an acting and modeling school for six months. That helped train us and go us into a database where agents can cast you. We did Tyler Perry's House of Payne, Snakes on Plane, and our first role was in a Netflix film called Plus One.
What fueled that ambition? Where did it come from?
Shannade: I think our family and the people we grew up around in Georgia. We didn't come from generational wealth. Our parents are hard-working, working class. They're also immigrants, who came here and built the lives of their dreams. They always taught us to prioritize our responsibilities and our dad always told us to never let anyone tell you no. Our dad would spend his very last to get us what we want and it was like, damn, I'd rather just get it myself.
Shannon: Being twins, especially with other siblings, all we knew was sharing. We used to share a room up until middle school. I didn't want our dad to ever spend his last for something I wanted. That didn't feel right; it felt selfish. On top of that, Georgia was incredibly close-minded. I just saw a video on Twitter from the high school we went to. It was a clip of cheerleaders shouting "nigger." That's the same energy that we experienced when were were there.
So many people living there were closed-minded. They'd never left Georgia, never been on a plane. It's not to excuse their behavior, but it showed us a different way of viewing opposition. There were white guys who would tell us how hot we were but that they "couldn't bring us home." We just knew there was something more, that we were too big for Georgia, and it shaped us to always want to do everything we were told we couldn't. Even when classmates were intimidated by us, and they used racism to mask it, we were still ourselves. We were right out there popular as fuck, still on the cheer team, putting those bitches in their place and killing them with kindness!
Was moving to New York City always the plan?
Shannade: Our aunt from New Jersey would take us on the train to New York City when were really little. We were six years old and we'd practice our runway walks to be in shows that she worked on. Everything was a blur but I remember feeling greater, that there was something there for us. It was unlike anything else.
Shannon: That was a feeling we never had in Georgia. We knew there was diversity in New York City, and that there our lives could really change. When it came time to go to college, we got full-ride scholarships in Georgia, but we couldn't imagine staying there any longer. Shannade only applied to Parsons and I only applied to F.I.T. We didn't have any other plan other than getting to New York City.
What was it like you when you finally made it here?
Shannade: I used to be in my dorm and I would just cry. Every time I looked out of that tiny window, I couldn't stop being thankful. I couldn't believe I was here. Just going to class motivated me. Everyday I was wearing heels, putting on makeup for 7 a.m. classes. Those memes of overdressed college students make me laugh so hard. That was me. I wanted to feel my fucking best. I wanted to make sure everyone remembered who I was. I knew this wasn't Georgia and that we were starting over and no one knew anything about us or the work we had done. We had shit to prove and we had to hustle even harder.
Shannon: The biggest thing at fashion school was getting internships. I got my first internship for this company called Vaunt, it was known as the top online consignment store. I would go to work in these insane Upper East Side penthouses, packing and organizing their closets. To see the way those women were living... bitch! It was like there's a whole other side to fucking life and I want it.
Shannade: YES! Even interning from Jovani to Saint Laurent, there were these little moments of more and more and more! Once we saw that, it motivated us to work even harder. The plan was just to get here but that's when we started putting together a new plan. You can't want more until you see more, that's what people don't know. We only needed to see new things one good time.
Was fashion always an interest?
Shannon: You have no fucking idea. We made our own homecoming dresses freshman year. It wasn't because there was any hardship, we honestly just wanted to be original. We'd flip through fashion magazines and see these $1,800 Dolce & Gabbana dresses, which wasn't realistic at the time, and we just thought let's make something even more iconic. We stitched, sewed, patterned and did our own thing.
How did Mont Boudoir come to life?
Shannade: Mont Boudoir was something we started thinking about during sophomore year. When we filmed for Bad Girls Club, everyone loved our fashion sense. After the show premiered, most of our followers would ask for fashion tips or advice. It was a full-circle moment like okay, we've learned so much, now it's time to use what we've learned. We came to New York City to be business women, we invested in these schools, and it was time to make something of ourselves.
Shannon: We wanted to make pieces that we would actually wear. From the fringe jacket to the bathrobes, everything is truly us. We didn't want to do the easy trendy Instagram approach where you just slap your name across something and sell it. We wanted pieces that made us dream, that made us feel sexy. That's our look. And quality mattered the most. We've gotten pushback for our price points in terms of our audience but it's like okay, if you love our style and want to wear what we wear, here you go. It's a luxury lifestyle brand and something we want to reflect not only who we are, but where we plan to go as designers.
How much work goes into starting your own brand?
Shannade: When we did Bad Girls Club, that's when our social media became really big. We had less than 10,000 followers before BGC. It brought us major visibility and so many opportunities, but there's a flipside. You can get trapped in a bubble of fantasy very quickly, especially if you can't spin it into reality. It was important for us to stay grounded, not to focus on being sensations or just influencers online. We spent more time making sure our real lives had value. We cared more about our resumes than how many followers we had. Our old resumes were two pages long. We saved up for two years to create Mont Boudoir.
Shannon: Even before that there's a million things you have to do. You have to find affordable seamstresses. You have to find fabric and figure out affordable cuts. You have to think strategically about the market and really flesh out price points in terms of finding a profit. Most initial releases are not about selling, they're about publicity, making sure people have a clear idea of what your brand is. New brands aren't usually rolling out orders their first release. Those are things people don't keep in mind. You have to prepare for that and you have to be in business for the long haul.
What advice would you give to anyone hoping to achieve their dreams?
Shannade: Never fucking settle and never compromise. Don't ever feel like you have to come down to please others.
Shannon: Not everything requires a check — there will be sacrifices. And those sacrifices can bring you even better opportunities.
What's the biggest misconception people have about you?
Shannade: That we're arrogant or stuck-up. We love our nice things and we take pride in showing them off. We earned them. Every time someone sees a woman with nice things she's called every name in the book. Especially if she's black. That's tiring and we're never going to stop that. We clap for ourselves every time we accomplish something. Shit, who else will?
Shannon: The world, bitch.
Shannade: No bitch — everything, the planets.
Shannon: Okay, bitch! EVERYTHING — THE PLANETS!
Photography: Robert Hubert