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 boutique in Langley.
That moment finally came in June, when Alma opened its doors.
Here, a whole family can find an outfit in soothing neutral tones and exposed natural fibers. Children are encouraged to play with the wooden toys scattered around the shop.
“If it’s low, it’s there to play,” said Kelly, who has two young children of her own.
Kelly moved from LA to Langley last November. Previously, she made props, set design and styled music videos and commercials before transitioning into a retail career in the fashion industry. Along the way, she helped others start their own clothing stores and eventually became COO of a line of sustainable women’s and children’s clothing.
But life in LA was at a faster pace than she preferred.
“I was working so many crazy hours and it felt like we just didn’t have a very good work-life balance,” Kelly said.
Growing up, she regularly visited her aunt, uncle, and cousins on Whidbey Island.
“It already felt a lot like a place that had been close to my heart for a long time,” she said. “I always saw how my cousins were brought up and how much slower the pace was here and I kind of thought it looked dreamy.”
Diane and Doug Hansen, Kelly’s father, moved to Langley about six years earlier. Her parents previously ran an ad agency in Seattle, where Kelly grew up.
“She’s a very career-oriented woman, which is so cool. She’s worked really hard my whole life,” Kelly said of her mom. “She kind of jumped at the chance for us to do this together and I’m really grateful to him because I think we’re a really good partnership.”
For Kelly, fashion has always been her passion. She remembers choosing her own clothes to wear as a child.
“When I was in middle school, my grandmother and my mother taught me to sew,” she said. “From then on I would basically go to thrift stores and usually buy plus size clothes to get enough fabric and then turn it into my own stuff.”
Although she still makes clothes from time to time, she prefers to support other sustainably created and environmentally conscious brands in the store she co-owns with Diane.
“There’s fast fashion, which is underpaid sewers, it’s fabric letting microplastics into the water and into the ocean, it’s a lot of trash,” Kelly said. “There really is a slow fashion movement now.”
She acknowledged that this type of fashion is currently not available to everyone due to the higher price tag. However, this increased cost translates into fair wages and ethically made clothing using organic or plant-based dyes and natural fibers.
Waste management in the fashion industry is another big issue. Many Alma brands have recycling programs for unused fabric scraps in core garments. Some brands will donate scraps to schools for children to learn to sew.
Kelly has supported some of these brands for years.
“It’s really fun to be able to bring them to Langley and be able to share them with everyone,” she said.
She also hopes to carry more vintage items in the future.
Her goal is for Alma to be a stopover for locals, who can reduce their carbon footprint by shopping locally rather than online.
So far, the sweaters have been a big hit with regular customers.
“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 local business that also sprung up during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It’s kind of like this new version of Langley popping up,” Kelly said.
Alma is open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday and Wednesday to Saturday, and 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday. The clothing store is located at 115 Anthes Ave. at Langley. For more information, follow the store’s Instagram account, @almawhidbey.