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Haute Couture in Old Dominion

Marymount University’s annual fashion show attracts a big name designer.

Paris, New York, London… Arlington? Unfortunately, the Washington area has never been grouped in with these major cities as fashion capitals of the world.

But for one weekend a year, Marymount University and its students try to change that.

The school’s annual Portfolio In Motion fashion show is being held this week on the school’s Arlington campus. Marymount students organize and participate in all aspects of the show, from designing the outfits to constructing the stage to even walking down the runway.

The show has turned into a major recruiting tool for the Arlington school, whose fashion design program is now considered one of the best in the country.

"We like to think of our fashion [program] as the equivalent of another school’s football team," Janice Ellingwood, the chair of Marymount’s Department of Fine and Applied Arts, said. "[The fashion show] is like our Super Bowl."

MARYMOUNT UNIVERSITY WAS initially established in the 1950’s as a two-year women’s college. It has since expanded to a four-year coed institution, but its fashion and design department is still one of the most highly regarded nationally.

"Our students compete and have opportunities to study abroad," Ellinwood said. "It’s not the kind of field of study that every university has. We are fashion in the Washington area, as far as colleges go."

"I came here because of the [Portfolio In Motion] fashion show," Marymount student Mallory Mason said. She is the head coordinator of the show and is involved in all aspects of its production, from dealing with models backstage to crafting their choreography when they’re on the runway.

"I have very high expectations," she said. "I hope it will be the best show Marymount has ever seen. We put a lot of work in over the last three or four months and I am ready for it to manifest."

The main purpose of the show is to highlight the students’ work. But it also acts as a fundraiser for Marymount fashion program, routinely raking in tens of thousands of dollars.

Mason said that this year the program is estimating a windfall of $100,000 from tickets that sold out within four days.

ONE FACTOR THAT probably helped the sale of those tickets was the attendance of a distinguished guest of honor: award-winning fashion designer and veteran of the Emmy-nominated television series "Project Runway" Michael Kors.

Kors will be accepting Marymount’s Designer of the Year award at its fashion show this year. Previous Marymount honorees include such fashion icons as Tommy Hilfiger, Oscar de la Renta, Diane Von Furstenburg and Geoffrey Beene.

Laurie Callahan, a Marymount University spokesperson, said that after Kors accepts his award, he will review the portfolios of each individual design student.

"We’re thrilled to be honoring Michael Kors," she said. "Our students are really excited. With ‘Project Runway,’ he’s really well known. His designs are so popular."

"I am a big fan of ‘Project Runway,’" Mason said. "I am really excited to meet him."

She also added that, "The Kors name is selling the whole fashion show."