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Academy puts focus on fashion


Elizabeth Evans loves to look at the latest fashions in Teen Vogue.

The 13-year-old clips photos of the outfits she likes and is learning how to design and make her own versions at LoK Fashion Academy’s new summer camps in Stafford County.

“I would love to be a designer,” she said. “I have so many ideas I’d like to make. It would be kinda cool to have people wear clothes you’ve designed.”

Marie King, a longtime fashion designer who specializes in making custom clothing and window treatments, started the academy last September at her shop, LoK Custom Fashion. It’s located in Stafford at 60 Susa Drive, Suite 107, in Foreston Crossing shopping center on U.S. 1.

“I’ve been playing around with the idea for 10 or 15 years,” she said. “I did test marketing by teaching classes at Hancock Fabrics and Jo–Ann Fabric and Crafts.”

Interest in sewing has gotten a boost in recent years from such TV shows as Project Runway and Fashion Star, which feature competitions among unknown fashion designers, she said.

“Lots of the girls come in saying they want to be a designer,” King said. “We have nothing in this area. With me being from New York and a graduate of [The Fashion Institute of Technology], I’m trying to bring a bit of New York to Stafford.”

King and her two assistants, Yolanda Canty and Irene Conte, start by teaching students how to make a skirt. That gives them hands-on experience in the basics, from sewing a waistband to inserting a zipper to finishing a hem.

“Then I ask them what they want to make next,” King said. “Usually it’s a dress. If it’s too complicated, I’ll tell them, ‘Let’s make it later.’”

Besides learning the basics of sewing by hand and by machine, students are taught how to cut and use patterns, fashion illustration, pattern making, draping, textiles, art history and fashion. Along the way they also pick up such important life skills as the ability to multitask, have proper posture while walking or working at a sewing machine, and how to go into business for themselves.

On Tuesday, a group of girls stood around tables covered with dressmaker cutting mats as they marked fabric with tailor’s chalk, cut out shapes and pinned and basted the pieces. Others were seated at a bank of Singer sewing machines as they stitched the pieces together.

King and Canty, an artist and visual arts instructor for Spotsylvania County schools, were there to supervise, answer questions and offer advice.

More advanced students work in another room where bolts of fabrics line the shelves and various completed projects, such as a fuchsia homecoming dress, are being stored.

Ten-year-old Peyton Boatwright was in there assembling the ruffles for a halter dress she had sketched. King and Conte, who is a textiles expert, helped her create the pattern.

“I’ve always wanted to do something with ruffles on it,” said Peyton, as she worked on the pieces of solid navy fabric and navy fabric decorated with polka dots and daisies that will form the ruffles on the skirt. She planned to construct the bodice on Wednesday and have the dress completed today.

Next to her, Nadine Lane worked on a peach princess dress for her 3-year-old daughter, Anais. She’ll wear it in the red-carpet fashion show LoK Fashion Academy students will put on for family and friends on Aug. 12 at Potomac Point Winery in Stafford. Lane, a former fashion model, also has been helping the students learn to walk and turn on a runway.

“When I came here, I didn’t know anything about sewing, but it was always my dream to be a designer,” Lane said. King “is a tough teacher, but I’m learning a lot. I couldn’t imagine that I would learn that quick. She takes her time, and is one-on-one with you.”

King likes to say that she “has fashion in her blood.” She’s the daughter of a fashion designer and launched her own career in 1978 after marrying a Marine and moving to Camp Lejeune, N.C. She designed and made clothing and window treatments at her home for customers, who learned about her through word-of-mouth and fashion shows.

She continued working from home when she and her husband moved to Stafford in 1988, and then opened LoK Custom Fashion in Foreston Crossing in 2004. The name is a combination of the initial letters in her maiden name, London, and her married name.

Now King wants to pass along the skills she’s learned to a new generation. The last of her three summer camps ends Aug. 3, but classes will resume from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Mondays and Thursdays and 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Saturdays beginning Sept. 8.

“I want this to become my business,” she said. “I get a lot of reward from seeing them produce stuff, and remembering where they started.”

Cathy Jett: 540/374-5407