LORCH COMPANY. The Lorch Company, founded in 1909, grew to be the oldest privately owned women's apparel company in the United States. August Lorch began the pioneer fashion business after immigrating from Germany to Texas and serving as a peddler, dry-goods merchant, and wholesaler of ladies' apparel. In 1924 Lester P. Lorch, son of the founder, urged that the Dallas-based company enter the manufacturing field; soon it was producing inexpensive cotton dresses along with more stylish garments. By 1936 the company, located on Commerce Street, had expanded its production to include sportswear, playclothes, and slack suits. A year earlier, Lester Lorch, as president of the apparel division of the Dallas Manufacturers Association, led a successful ten-month confrontation against a general strike of workers called by the International Ladies' Garment Workers Unionqv. (see DALLAS GARMENT WORKERS' STRIKE.) During World War II he persuaded the Office of Price Administration to grant a lower minimum wage-about half that of other garment workers in the country.
During the war the Lorch Company devoted much of its production to the making of thousands of army nurse uniforms; it also purchased new, efficient machinery, helped form the Dallas Fashion and Sportswear Center, a trade organization, and joined other Dallas apparel manufacturers in buying a cooperative advertisement in Mademoiselle magazine. Advertising manager Magdalene (Lorch) Folz, daughter of the founder, was instrumental in establishing in 1947 the "Dallas Alice" award to give national recognition to the city's emergence as a center of fashion design. In the postwar decades the company produced the fashionable Lorch and Jeanne Durrell women's apparel lines and used merchant conferences and appearances by prominent personalities to promote Dallas as a national center. Lester Lorch served as president of Lorch and the separate Westway Sportswear, Incorporated, and in 1948 had a modern building constructed on South Poydras Street to house both firms. In addition, the company established manufacturing plants in Gainesville, Cleburne, Decatur, Terrell, and West, and also in Hugo, Oklahoma. In 1959 the company celebrated its golden anniversary by sponsoring a special concert by the Dallas Symphony Orchestra. Five years later the Lorch Company built a spacious factory and showroom on Beeman Street. In 1967 A. Lorch Folz, grandson of the founder, became president. By 1980 the company did $12 million in sales annually and had more than 500 employees at its various plants. The retirement of Lester Lorch, the death in 1987 of A. Lorch Folz, and a devastating fire at the Dallas plant in June 1989 necessitated the closing of the company in 1991.
Dorothy D. DeMoss, The History of Apparel Manufacturing in Texas, 1897–1981 (Ph.D. dissertation, Texas Christian University, 1981; New York: Garland Publishing, 1989). Donald W. Whisenhunt, ed., Texas: A Sesquicentennial Celebration (Austin: Eakin Press, 1984).
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