Alencia Johnson

Sep 1, 2023

Alencia is wearing the Maya Dress.

Alencia is a social impact and brand engagement strategist, as well as the Chief Impact Officer and Founder of 1063 West Broad. She took time to meet with us in NYC and talk all things fashion, career goals, and social change.

When do you feel the most confident?

After I’ve leaned in to fear and done something vulnerable.

Who are the women who inspire you?

My mother, Valencia, has such an admirable way of loving people to their best self. My late grandmother Ozella Bennett, was a civically engaged entrepreneur who gave so much to people in need more than self. I’m not sure how she did it all and was still the flyest woman in town. (My company is named after her address, 1063 West Broad, as homage to everything she taught me.) And of course the countless women who are brave enough to tell their personal stories in hopes to shift culture and policy around reproductive freedom.

How would you describe your summer style?

A blend of sleek, modern classics, neutral and timelessness, with just as much edge, glamor, and bold expressions. Some days I’m leaning into streetwear or something really trendy, other days it’s not too many colors but a great silhouette. No matter what, it’ll be polished and well fitted. And while some only wear backless dresses, bare arms, or mini skirts in the summer — I love incorporating them into all seasons with different fabrics and accessories.

What has been the proudest moment for you in your career?

When I bet on myself and embarked on this creative entrepreneur journey.

Why do you think the fashion industry is integral to creating social change?

I remember when I was debating about wearing a bright pink outfit to a DC event (a town not known for bold fashion) and a friend said “oh honey, be a flower in the desert.” And that resonated with me deeply. Fashion is not just art, it is our first (and oftentimes only) introduction to others and the world. And what we say matters. It can be disruptive. It tells a story. And I’m loving how Black, women, and LGBTQIA designers, creatives and fashion executives are finally getting the attention they deserve for literally creating the culture that everyone consumes. While there's a lot more work to be done, more labels are focused on sustainability efforts. Others are taking opportunities to not just learn from but most importantly, invest in communities they may have harmed in the past.

I look at how my friend Antoine Phillips led Gucci through some pivotal moments and created more partnerships and investments in Black communities and creatives. I worked on a project with Argent and Supermajority in 2020 and 2022 – #AmbitionSuitsYou and #VotingSuitsYou. It was more than a hot pink pantsuit – the flashy pink on your favorite celebrities and activists pushed back on the notion that ambition is a negative attribute on women, and brought significant attention to the voting power of women in the U.S. 

What are some simple things people can do to create social impact?

I’m currently writing a book on how to disrupt your life to disrupt the world around us for good. It doesn’t come out until 2025, so until then, here are some things anyone can do.

Understand your privilege and spend it. Don’t approach the work through the lens of a savior complex, it’s time for collective solidarity. And if that makes you feel uncomfortable, just remember discomfort doesn’t mean you’re unsafe. Research organizations already leading on issues you care about (especially those led by BIPOC communities), follow their lead, then volunteer and donate. Volunteer your talents, the things that you’re naturally good at. You’d be surprised at the kinds of unique collaborations you can come up with.

Stay informed and share that knowledge with others around you. Trust me, even the smartest people around you aren’t the most informed. And while I frequent cable news to provide commentary, it’s important to diversify the places where you consume your news. I recently started a newsletter, Notes From A Disruptor, to help more people stay informed in a more digestible way — the feedback provided this very point! Vote – not just in presidential elections, vote in every election. State and local. Special races. Primaries. That’s where the magic happens. Understand that long-term policy solutions create the most impact and they take time. So stay committed and understand that we may lose some short term fights. But the goal is to win in the long run. 

What is a quote you live by / are currently loving?

“Do it scared.” I have no idea where I first heard it years ago – maybe Brene Brown? – but it’s been my current philosophy both personally and professionally. I struggle a bit with vulnerability and fear – just like everyone else. But lately I’ve been redefining my relationship with fear and see it as an indicator that I actually should do that very thing instead of running from it. Say the thing. Put yourself out there. Take a pivot. Say “no” more. Say “yes” more without knowing what’s on the other side. If it doesn’t work out the first time, at least you tried and the next time it’ll be easier.

And if you’re worried about what other people will say, just remember, more likely than not, they didn’t have the courage to try, only the audacity to critique you. Like when Venus Williams told reporters scrutinizing her, “How I deal with it is that I know every single person asking me a question can’t play as well as I can.” Tune out the noise from anyone who doesn’t have the courage to try.