The tailoring skills Natalie Fitz learned under Marie King’s critical eye helped the Colonial Forge High School student earn admission into one of the world’s top fashion schools three years ago.

Students who’ve studied fashion design in the after-school programs and summer camps at King’s LoK Fashion Academy in Stafford County have gone on to similar prestigious schools every year since. That kind of success inspired her to start planning a two-year vocational school to teach the subject, for which she recently got certified through the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia.

She’ll hold a ribbon cutting for her new LoK Fashion Institute at noon March 20 in Forreston Crossing, a strip center off U.S. 1 at 62 Susa Drive. The school will open there in mid-August.

“What I’m doing is a fashion design certificate,” said King, who is a graduate of the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York.

Fashion has become an increasingly popular career choice thanks to the impact of such TV shows as “Project Runway” and “Fashion Star,” which feature competitions among unknown fashion designers. Yet there were no schools teaching fashion design in the area when King opened LoK Fashion Academy in Forreston Crossing in 2011.

Fitz, now a junior at FIT, and her friend Lauren Vastano, a junior studying fashion merchandising at Philadelphia University, were among King’s first students.

King said that she’s heard from a number of people that they, too, were interested in pursuing a career in fashion design or marketing, but hadn’t because there was nowhere in the area to earn a certificate or degree.

“I’m covering that space,” she said.

LoK Fashion Institute will teach every step of making a garment, from drawing the initial sketch, to creating the pattern and selecting the fabric and sewing it. The final semester will cover the topics students will need to go into business for themselves, including accounting and marketing.

She plans to charge $26,000 for the two-year program. She’s set up a nonprofit to accept donations so she can offer scholarships, and is participating in the Post-9/11 GI Bill’s Yellow Ribbon Program which covers cover tuition and fees for veterans.

Laurasha Lovett of Stafford, a Marine who studied with King two years ago while she was pregnant, plans to use that program to pay for her first year at LoK Fashion Institute.

“I’ve been really into fashion,” said Lovett. “Now I’m out of the military and out of camo. I love the uniqueness and boldness of fashion. I’m ready to work on my craft and start my own fashion line.”

The federal government also has a tuition assistance program for military spouses pursuing a license, certification or associate’s degree in a portable career field and occupation. Fashion qualifies, King said, because spouses can run their own business as they move from one military base or posting to the next.

“Let’s face it,” King said. “You might as well create your own stuff.”

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Cathy Jett: 540/374-5407 cjett@freelancestar.com