For Kelly Sorensen Hansen and Diane Sorensen, their new clothing store is a family affair.
Over the years Kelly and her mother, Diane, have talked about opening their own shop in Langley.
That time finally came this June, when Alma opened its doors.
Here, a whole family can find an outfit in the calming neutral tones and natural fibers on display. Kids are encouraged to play with the wooden toys scattered throughout the boutique.
“If it’s down low, it’s there to play,” said Kelly, who happens to have a couple of young children herself.
Kelly made the move from LA to Langley last November. She previously did props, set design and styling for music videos and commercials before transitioning to a career in retail in the fashion industry. Along the way, she helped others start their own clothing stores and ended up being the operations manager for a sustainable women and children’s clothing line.
But life in LA was at a faster pace than what she preferred.
“I was working so many crazy hours and I felt like we just didn’t really have a very good work-life balance,” Kelly said.
Growing up, she routinely visited her aunt, uncle and cousins on Whidbey Island.
“It already felt very much like a place that I had close to my heart for a long time,” she said. “I always saw how my cousins were raised and how much slower kind of pace it was here and I kind of thought that seemed dreamy.”
Diane and Doug Hansen, Kelly’s father, made the move to Langley about six years earlier. Her parents previously ran an advertising agency in Seattle, where Kelly grew up.
“She’s a very career-oriented woman, which is so cool. She’s just been a really hard worker my whole life,” Kelly said of her mother. “She kind of jumped at the opportunity for us to do this together and I’m really thankful for that because I think we’re a really good partnership.”
For Kelly, fashion has been her life-long passion. She recalled picking her own clothes to wear as a kid.
“When I was in middle school, my grandma and my mom taught me how to sew,” she said. “From that point on, I basically would go to thrift stores and buy usually plus-sized clothing so I’d have enough fabric and then I’d remake them into my own things.”
Although she still makes clothes from time to time, she prefers supporting other sustainably created and environmentally conscious brands in the store she co-owns with Diane.
“There is fast fashion, which is underpaid sewers, it’s fabric that is leaching microplastics into the water and into the ocean, it’s a lot of waste,” Kelly said. “There really is now a movement of slow fashion.”
She acknowledged that this kind of fashion is not currently accessible to everyone because of the higher price point. However, that increased cost does result in sewers who are paid fair wages and clothes that are ethically made using organic or plant-based dyes and natural fibers.
The handling of waste in the fashion industry is another big issue. Many of the brands Alma carries have recycling programs for discarded scraps of fabric not used in main clothing pieces. Some brands will donate scraps to schools for kids to learn how to sew.
Kelly has been supporting some of these brands for years.
“It’s really fun to be able to bring them into Langley and be able to share them with everybody,” she said.
She also hopes to carry more vintage items in the future.
Her goal is for Alma to be a stop for the locals, who can reduce their carbon footprint by shopping locally rather than online.
Sweaters have been a big hit with regular customers so far.
“Even in the heat of the summer, we were selling clogs and cardigans,” Kelly said.
Next to Alma, another new business, Grayhorse Mercantile, also opened this year. Ulysses Coffee is a nearby business that additionally sprang up during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It feels sort of like this newer version of Langley coming to light,” Kelly said.
Alma is open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Monday and on Wednesday through Saturday and 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sunday. The clothing store is located at 115 Anthes Ave. in Langley. For more information, follow the store’s Instagram account, @almawhidbey.