She also thinks fashion should bring people joy, which is why she refuses to send her models frowning down the runway.

While Lebreux may be less known than some of the designers at StyleWeek, Peters says he was struck by her work, which was different from anything else on the roster this season. Plus, first-timers have found glory at StyleWeek before. Rhode Island designer Kara Wickman started selling in boutiques shortly after her work debuted at StyleWeek Providence in January, says Rosanna Ortiz Sinel, president and founder of StyleWeek.

"That's exactly what this is all about," says Sinel. "We're getting on the radar of the business portion of fashion, which is very exciting."

StyleWeek Providence kicks off Friday, August 26 with a fundraiser for the American Heart Association of Southern New England that paired 12 designers with 12 girls who have survived heart disease. The girls will model red-colored fashions for a panel of judges during the event, called "Little Hearts. Big Love."

The eight-day event is expected to draw hundreds of people, including many from outside the state, to see high-profile designers like Avni Trivedi, Peach Carr, David Chum, Andrea Valentini, and Joseph Aaron Segal. After-event soirees are open to the public.

StyleWeek Providence, by the way, begins nearly two weeks before New York Fashion Week. That makes Providence a sort of dry run for some of the bigger designers, says Sinel. And, well, technically, that makes Providence . . . first.

"Will we ever be New York? Absolutely not," Sinel concedes. But hey, who said that was a bad thing?

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