Mop_main
WINNER A mop made beautiful.
Techno music is thumping through L'Apogee, the bar at the top of the Providence Biltmore. Candles flicker in glass vases; crowds shuffle around tables laden with scarves and bracelets; and tall women glide through the room wearing black headsets with microphones. "Jennifer, did you copy that?" one of them says. As 7 pm nears, the crowds swell around a table where Joe Segal, a local knitwear designer with a fondness for cat patterns, is displaying his cat earrings, cat necklaces, cat hats, and cat sweaters. "I think it's the eyes that people like," he says. "People say that they stare into their soul." In another room, Dixie Carroll — a Nashville transplant who sells cowboy boots out of her Blue Suede boutique, in Warren — discusses how Jessica Simpson triggered a nationwide avalanche of boot sales. "They never go out of style," she says, but, "right now they're experiencing a little bit of a surge."

Welcome to the Accessory Showcase, at StyleWeek Providence, the preamble to tonight's inaugural design competition where 16 college students vie for a chance at $500 cash, an installation at Spring/Summer StyleWeek 2013, and two month's worth of representation from StyleWeek's professional PR team. Of course, this being StyleWeek, it's not called "Amateur Night"; it is called "SEED" — a title marked in large white letters above the runway that cuts through the middle of the Biltmore's 17th-floor ballroom. The theme of this year's competition is recycled and sustainable fashion and the garments are fittingly bold: a red dress with nails jutting up out of the shoulders; another, made from metallic Capri Sun juice packets; a third, featuring a cape stitched from Marie Claire and Vogue magazine covers. The house music churns and drives as the models saunter down the runway toward a line of clipboard-toting judges and the phalanx of hungry photographers behind them.

No Eiffel Tower or Empire State Building twinkles outside of the hotel's arched windows, but StyleWeek Providence — now in its fourth year — has its share of swagger. There is a swath of red carpet where guests can have their pictures snapped in front of logos for Salon Bianco, the Biltmore, and other sponsors. A woman with a video camera is milling through the crowd, stopping people to interview them about their shoes. The guests' accessories range from designer eyeglasses to a handbag modeled after a plastic, orange trick-or-treating pumpkin. And, just before the show begins, Mayor Angel Taveras slides into a front-row seat, sporting a dark suit. ("I am wearing Joseph A. Bank," he says, afterward. "It's cost effective.")

At the end of the evening the grand prize goes to Kwong Hui Yee, a senior at Massachusetts College of Art and Design, whose design drew gasps and whoops of admiration from the packed room when it first appeared. On top, it is a criss-cross of black yarn, wooden clothespins, and, below a poofy miniskirt made from the thick, grey fabric strands of an industrial mop. "I was blown away by the use of something I would clean my bathroom with," says one of the judges, Kate Newton Richard, the COO of Massachusetts-based makeup boutique Beauty and Main.

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