Lizzy - An Interview With Saskia Stepper
STEPPER was started by your father Hans and the company has a fascinating history. When did you join?
I grew up in the factory. Both parents worked in the company so I went there after school
When I was around 9 or 10 years old, I loved to accompany my father on Sundays. There were some easy jobs which I could do, like bending the temple tips for a comfortable fit behind the ears or washing and drying the frames by hand.
In the end it was a seamless transition, so during school holidays I helped in the factory to earn some money
In 1996 I went to a school for 1.5 years. I studied economics in Stuttgart for 5 hours a day and combined that with 4 hours working at the factory as the assistant to my father. After school I fully joined the company.
What is your role within STEPPER?
I will be Hans’s successor. That means holding everything together, looking at how the business is running, trying new ideas and liaising with our customers worldwide. This is what we are both doing at the moment. Hans’s key aspect is production, whilst mine are the collections and the colouration of the collections (STEPPER and STEPPERS), together with our team.
Did you always want to join your father in business?
Yes, I did. First, because we all matched together, (my father and I still do). and secondly because I thought and still think that in a small to medium-sized family business, you learn more and go much deeper into the matters. The only thing I regret is that I did not take an additional 3-year apprenticeship in tooling.
Are there any disadvantages of working in a family business?
For me there are no disadvantages. We have always respected each other highly in our family.
Do you and your father ever disagree?
We agree 98% of the time, both in business and in personal views. If we have a different view we listen to each other and either accept the other view point or agree to the other’s opinion. The missing 2% is not related to business. It is a father/daughter thing. We are so similar in character. Sometimes you discover things within the other person that you do not like. And then you find out that you are just the same!
You have a distinctive image and a strong sense of style. How would you describe your personal style?
For some people, it is definitely a style they have to get used to. I buy what I like; suits me and is good value. I love to colour my hair. I have done this for 36 years since I was 16!
Do you have a background in fashion or design?
No. I would say, I have an eye what suits our collections and what does not. This ranges from a classical to a contemporary collection. I see or feel the harmony.
Where do you find your style inspiration?
I do not like shopping and I hate to buy shoes! I have a favourite small shop nearby, where I pop in every few months. There I get my capsule wardrobe. I dress as I feel when I look in the mirror in the morning. When I feel uncomfortable I normally wear black.
Do you match your frame to your outfit or do you start with the frame?
I match the frame to my outfit. First I find something to wear. To find the matching frame is easy.
Do you have a favourite STEPPER frame? If so, why?
For the last 2 years I have been blessed with the same prescription, so I have around 20 frames with which I can see clearly. My favourite is always the one STEPPERS I put on in the morning.
You travel widely. Where is your favourite place?
The places where people are friendly and food and drinks are good.
How do attitudes to spectacle frames vary across the globe? For example, are Europeans different to South Americans in their frame choices?
First we have to look at the ethnic differences in face and head shape. To make it simple – we first differentiate between “long” and “short” noses. The “short” noses normally also have a shorter but wider face.
The northern European continental market is the most adventurous in styling and colours (Germany is definitely ahead). South America likes more blacks, browns and not-so-edgy shapes.
Has being a woman in business ever been a disadvantage?
I have a loud voice, short hair and do not look fragile. I think I had fewer or no disadvantages compared to other women. I do not agree with it, but I am convinced that these features help a lot in the business career.
What is your proudest moment?
When I look at my daughter.
What are your hobbies and how do you relax?
I relax by doing nothing and I am very good in it when I have the time. I love reading; I ski; I, (we – my husband Ralf and I). love cooking and inviting friends over – he cooks - I invite! I love to find excuses. At the end - my work is my hobby and I love to get up for work every morning.
What are your plans and dreams for STEPPER?
To sell 2 million pieces in 2020.
Will there be a time when you don’t work for STEPPER?
No, only if I am forced to stop.