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THE STYLE FILES: THE PLACES : Where the Designers Do Their Thing : GREGORY POE: "I didn't go to design school. But I have to be here. I have no other talents."

March 15, 1994|GAILE ROBINSON | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Only a very small piece of the fashion pie is glamorous. Models, runway shows and stores are pretty, and you can be, too, once you buy that new outfit. The rest of it, the bulk of it, is much like dressing rooms--ugly, sparsely furnished and poorly lit. Still, many people are quite willing to drive to the unlandscaped areas of town to toil in an office permeated with the acrid smell of fabric dye. They want to hear the cacophony of sewing machines and slowly melt in the tropical heat of a hundred steamers. We took a peek into the working conditions at four Los Angeles studios--from Carole Little's huge complex to Gregory Poe's wee garret.

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The Clothes: Very forward menswear. The tight-fitting, zipper-front vests are a big item, possibly because the vests' backs are made of a girdle-like fabric (spandex is as kind to spare tires as it is to saddlebags). Jackets and pants in knit fabrics and sheer shirts are other staples.

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The Label: Dutch Courage.

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The Plant: A second-story, one-room space with loft located in a multibusiness industrial building in Vernon. The all-purpose room is cluttered with racks, desks and sewing machines. An 8-foot mountain of fabric samples threatens to topple any second. Despite its unglamorous address, Poe insists the building has a good-luck reputation.

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The Dress Code: Whatever you roll into when you roll out of bed. Eccentric hairstyles are not discouraged: Poe is bald except for a tiny porcine tail sprouting from the back of the head.

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Amenities: None that are readily discernible, although the crowded studio / sample room / office has a certain boho charm. Poe lists his patient sample maker, Ellia Ruiz, as one of the big pluses. "She keeps me from making five-legged pants."

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The Big Cheese: Poe and Brad Hickman, the company president, are partners. Both are irreverent, witty and slightly driven.

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Output: 30,000 pieces annually.

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Entry-Level Postion: "Well, I'd love someone to give me a hand," says Poe.

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Number of Employees: 5

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