After 27 years in the industry, LaTanya Johnson branched out to start a formal wear business of her own.

She got her start with Al’s Formal Wear in 1996, working her way up from a clerk to the first Black district manager in Houston, she said.

Johnson carries with her the work ethic and an eye for style she’s developed into Allen Johnson Formal Wear, which opened in Meyerland in November 2019. The business offers tuxedo rentals and custom suit designs for men to wear to weddings, galas and proms.

She said she loves helping men build their confidence by finding their personal style.

“Believe it or not, guys go through that. They have issues with confidence [too], and you'd be surprised how many I run into being in this business,” Johnson said. “It’s a good feeling just to see my customers smile, especially guys who don't wear suits often.”
LaTanya Johnson takes pride in personalizing the styling experience for each client. (Asia Armour/Community Impact)
Changing the game

Throughout her career, Johnson began to identify what was lacking in the planning process of special occasions. These ideas would help form her future business, she said.

“I started noticing ... there really was no one catering to the groom like they were to the bride. And so I started getting this vision,” Johnson said. “We can really take advantage of this situation [by] helping the man pay attention to the details—he never knows when to show up, he doesn't know what to wear, he doesn't know to inform his groomsmen—so we wanted to be that one-stop shop to help him with that.”

This individualized experience—where Johnson can create an event calendar specifically for the groom and make customized suits from scratch—is an advantage that larger stores don't offer, she said. At Allen Johnson, she can be more of a consultant than a clerk.

“I like to sit down with [my clients] and get to know them, get their look and see it come together without someone telling me no,” she said. “It's different than someone telling you to choose out of a book, pointing at a magazine or a mannequin, and saying, ‘OK, let me know when you're ready.’”

Who it's for

In her vision of Allen Johnson and what it could become, Johnson wants to have four stores—one north, south, east and west—with a venue in the middle. She wants trucks to go out for deliveries and a warehouse to increase her retail merchandise. She imagines having her own custom line of formal wear.

With that kind of growth, Johnson said she would be able to donate items to programs that send underprivileged kids at local high schools to dances and proms in style.

She has already collaborated with these organizations to rent pants and jackets. She's also partnered with other business owners, such as business directory Black Book Houston, to style models for photoshoots. But she said she aims to invest even more.

"We're in the community," Johnson said. "We try to do things to give back, because they have definitely taken care of us."