COMMUNITIES WITH HART: SHANNELLE ARMSTRONG-FOWLER, HAUTE & CO BRIDAL BOUTIQUE
As an accomplished public relations executive in the retail industry, Shannelle Armstrong-Fowler spent much of her career keeping her finger on the pulse of fashion trends. While working as a public relations director for Sears Holdings in Chicago, she recognized a void in the market to serve women with fuller figures seeking luxury wedding dresses. The options available were largely limited to big box stores or little known online retailers.
“Every bride deserves to feel special on her wedding day.”
~ Shannelle Armstrong-Fowler
In 2013, Shannelle addressed this gap by creating Haute & Co. Bridal Boutique, the only luxury designer bridal boutique for curvy and plus-size women in Chicago. Shannelle sought to develop a wedding dress shopping experience that empowers full-figured women through fashion while strengthening their self-confidence.
Thanks to a partnership between Accion and The Hartford through The Hartford’s Communities with HART program, which supports entrepreneurs who are having a positive impact in their communities, Shannelle received a loan in 2015 to expand her dress inventory with a new designer line that quickly became her best-seller.
Shannelle says that are few things more heartening than “when you get into the dressing room with a woman who hasn’t been able to find a dress, and she cries because she finally found it with us.” In that moment, it’s not uncommon for her to shed a few tears as well. “Every bride deserves to feel special on her wedding day.”
Shannelle works one-on-one with women throughout the Chicago area helping to improve their body image while celebrating who they are and how they look. She feels passionate about making fashion more accessible for all body types and loves what she does. In addition to the boutique, Shannelle also teaches fashion public relations at Columbia College in Chicago, encouraging students to become more diverse, inclusive and innovative with sizing as they prepare for careers in fashion.
Shanelle’s plans for business growth are just getting started. A first step includes expanding the line of dresses offered at her boutique. “I want Chicago to be known as the place to come for a wedding dress and formal attire for curvy and plus-size women,” she says. “I want to be that beacon in the Midwest where they can get that perfect luxury gown.”