THE sunlight streams into the showroom at Jump Apparel Company, through plate-glass windows that overlook a bustling Seventh Avenue in the heart of New York's fashion district.
Here, in a high rise that is home to scores of similar showrooms, a sewer hustles into a back office with a red chiffon minidress. Terry Friedman, Jump's vice president, gives his approval.
The dress will be hung among the hundreds crowding the showroom racks - a sea of blacks, blues, and whites. It is here that buyers from department stores such as Macy's, Filene's, and Hecht's search for some of the designs that will appear in their stores.
The airy red dress is possibly a more affordable version of a top designer's dress. It could have been spotted in a movie or at this year's fashion shows, held just down the street two weeks ago. A Jump designer, for instance, copied one dress from the movie "Clueless."
Today, the middleman or "jobber" is often bypassed by retailers who design their own clothes and contract directly with manufacturers to cut costs. But Jump has used technology to boost efficiency and keep business humming.
From a sketch or description, a "draper" at Jump hangs cloth over a dressmaker's form. One of the four or five sewers here then fashions that into a sample dress.
If a particular combination of black crepe and sequins strikes a buyer and the buyer makes an order, the sample dress will then be translated into a pattern of pliable cardboard.
The process then leaves the showroom and heads to one of Jump's contractors, all located within 10 miles.
At the cut-and-sew shop, thick bolts of fabric are rolled over 20-yard-long tables. A computer program is enlisted to shape the patterns into women sizes 4, 6, 8, 10, and so on. The same program lays the pattern out in a way that yields the most efficient use of material.
Then the cutting begins. A small machine, which looks like a hand-held mixer, buzzes along the cutting line, staying true to every detail.
An army of sewers with various machines - some that stitch hems, others that specialize in seammaking - sit down to their task. All day, they make inseams or form elastic waistbands to a rhythmic machinery buzz.
Then, the final details are attended to - button, zippers, or snaps are put in; finished clothes are pressed or folded; garments are placed in shipping boxes according to order. The dress ends up on the salesroom racks and in the closet of an American teen.