Albert Labiche and Walter Graff met while working for Gus Gretzner’s clothing store. In 1918, they joined finances and opened Labiche and Graff, a men’s clothing store located at 809 Poydras St. In 1921, they bought out Gretzner’s store and took over that location, at 826-34 Poydras St. Within the next three years, they expanded the store to include women’s and children’s departments and were claimed as “one of the genuine business romances of New Orleans.”
The growing business moved again in 1933 to a bigger space at 311-13 Baronne. The grand opening showcased the modernized space to the huge crowd, while Pinkney and his Orleanians orchestra played all day. A raffle was held for a child-sized automobile that ran on real gas at speeds as fast as 15mph.
In 1936, Graff sold his share of the business to Labiche, who consolidated the store with the Labiche and Legendre shoe store next door, and Labiche’s was born. When Albert Labiche died in 1941, the store continued to be run by the Labiche family, and an appliances division was added in 1946, soon followed by a maternity division that sold fashions with “variety and zip” for the expecting mother, suitable for “cocktail hours, casual living, and … business” wear.
In 1958, Labiche’s started a $3 million expansion plan, opening successful stores across the city’s suburbs, with fashion and appliance divisions at each location. The first was in Gretna, at the Westside Shopping Center. The next two opened in 1961 at the Carrollton Shopping Center and the Gentilly Woods Shopping Center. Two appliances-only stores were located downtown.
In 1964, the Labiche’s headquarters store moved to their newly renovated and improved five-story building at 714 Canal St. Teen and collegiate departments were added to round out contemporary fashions for all members of the family.
Another store opened in New Orleans East in 1974, but its closure in 1977 was the first of the many to come as the business realized it needed to reduce their operations. The 1980s saw a lot of attempts at reconfiguring their operations and locations, but the last clothing store closed in 1987, followed by the last appliance shop in 1988, seventy years after their start.
This Maidenform bra window display at Labiche’s on Baronne St. was based on an ad campaign (1949-1970) in which women in Maidenform bras (and little else) lived their everyday lives, or a fantasy life. The “I dreamed I ___in my Maidenform bra” campaign had women going on a tiger hunt or to a masquerade, winning an election or an Academy Award, serving jury duty, joining the circus, or going to work as a fireman or a lady editor. This “sawed in half” theme was inspired by an early 1950s print ad, which was spread across two pages, with the woman’s top and bottom halves on the outside edges, separated by printed columns.