Shannelle Armstrong-Fowler’s plus-size bridal boutique helps women find their dream dresses and brings real-life public relations scenarios into her classroom.
Shannelle Armstrong-Fowler, Associate Professor of Communication, created Haute & Co. in 2013 after a friend of hers was having a difficult time finding a wedding gown. After doing research, Armstrong-Fowler found that one of the biggest issues in the wedding industry was that most stores did not carry sample sizes larger than size 14. Based on her experiences in retail and marketing, she was sure she could fix the problem. With Haute & Co., her luxury bridal boutique in Lincoln Park, Armstrong-Fowler caters exclusively to plus-size brides and carries sizes 16–36.
“I tell my brides that I’m walking my truth in this space—not just because it’s bridal, but because I’ve always been an advocate for people in my career, and I can use those skills to help others,” she says.
About a year after opening Haute & Co., Armstrong-Fowler received a call from Authentic Entertainment LLC, who asked her if she would be interested in doing a reality television show around the brand, and The Perfect Fit was born. The first season of The Perfect Fit, which is filmed on location at Haute & Co. in Chicago, premiered in January of 2018 and was recently greenlit for a second season. Although the taping process is tough (12 hour days with a 30-minute break), Armstrong-Fowler has learned to embrace the camera.
“The first time you tape, you don’t know what you’re doing and it’s like being a deer in the headlights,” she says, “but you get used to it, and now I really enjoy taping. We have a good crew.”
With over 20 years of experience in managing public relations for major brands such as McDonald’s, Sears, and Kmart; a charismatic personality; and an in-depth knowledge of the wedding industry, Armstrong-Fowler strives to be a supportive, affirming champion for curvy brides everywhere. She shares that passion with her communications classes at Columbia and continually brings real-life scenarios into her classes by using her experiences at Haute & Co. as well as her work with clients in her time at global agency Havas PR.
“I know exactly what my students need when they walk out of my class, because I actually work with the biggest employers of people coming right out of undergrad,” she says. “Columbia students have strong creativity and what they have to learn is how to monetize that creativity so that they can be self-sufficient.”
Episodes of The Perfect Fit can be found on the official website at PeopleTV.