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THE STYLE FILES: THE PLACES : Where the Designers Do Their Thing : CAROLE LITTLE: "I love the benefits of the large-size company, and I am extremely, extremely hands-on."

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: Contemporary office clothes, sportswear, large sizes and junior lines.

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The Labels: Carole Little

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The Plant: The world headquarters of the Carole Little empire is nestled among nondescript two- and three-story warehouses just south of downtown Los Angeles. No signs advertise its existence. But the flocks of well-dressed young women who converge on it weekday mornings hint at the business within. Offices with glass-block walls and small cubicles filled with black office furniture house the design teams.

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The Dress Code: No wardrobe slackers here.

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Amenities: The facility is an oasis in the middle of industrial dreariness.

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The Big Cheese: Little limos to the office to oversee her multiple design teams and numerous pattern rooms. She seems slightly scattered, trying to keep so many balls in the air, but her staff insists she is a tireless worker and an endless source of creative energy.

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Output: More than 18 million garments produced annually.

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Entry-Level Positions: People with design training are hired as taggers, which involves preparing collections for market shows. Those with no design skills are sent to shipping, a spokesperson says.

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Number of employees: 1,000

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