“With STEPPER form follows function, but only if that form is elegant, classical or beautiful.”
Saskia Stepper, Daughter of Founder Hans Stepper
Technological excellence and manufacturing ingenuity combined with true creative flair for eyewear allows STEPPER frames to be produced in the best materials, with unbeatable styling and almost infinite patterning and colouration.
Design, Innovation and Technology
With the company’s roots in dispensing there continues to be a preoccupation with comfort and fit. All Stepper designs start from the bridge. The company has available bridge and face shape data it has collected from different ethnicities all over the globe. From this ‘bridge out’ design principle, Stepper creates spectacles with the primary objective of their frames being best for purpose – that of correcting vision. “The main and principle purpose for eyewear is to hold two prescription lenses correctly before the eyes,” comments Hans. “As long as we want to be professionals, we must not indulge in excessive design and fashion aspects ahead of this principle.”
It is this ‘design follows function’ approach to eyewear that is apparent as ever. Never wanting to be a leader of fashion, Stepper prefers the role of innovator in materials and manufacture. If Stepper can also create the most attractive frame in the process, then the manufacturer, optician and wearer are happy.
So why does Stepper continue with injection moulding over conventional plastic frames? The company recognises two key characteristics that are key to making well fitting, comfortable frames. These are;
- 3D design and manufacture. Three dimensional (3D) design allows a frame to be designed around the contours of a face and for the plastic frame to be manufactured in its final form rather than go through a shaping process
- The plastic holds its manufactured form. The plastic enters the mould in liquid form and sets in the fraction of a second. Once the plastic is set it leaves the mould in its final shape. This is the shape it ‘remembers’ and the frame doesn’t alter. The easiest way to understand the advantage of this process is to compare it to old fashioned acetate. Acetate comes in flat sheets from the source manufacturer. The frame shape is cut from this sheet. Once the shape is cut the three dimensional aspects of the frame are created by applying pressure to create a shape to fit the face. One problem Hans saw with this process is that, over time, the acetate slowly returns to its original shape with frames needing regular adjustment to ensure best fit.
In addition, casting at a high temperature results in a 100% replication of the master, creating a perfect replica of the original design. Not only do the frames come out from the mould with the lens groove, but the hinges can be inserted and joining elements for lug connections are provided creating extra strength in the frame construction.
Stepper has built up an enormous expertise and technical knowledge in this process. Today the company uses TX5, a state-of-the-art Polyamide. It has many advantages over the other plastic materials being 25% lighter, stronger (to allow much thinner frames), harder (for greater scratch resistance), high transparency (for clear detailing), endless colouring possibilities and hypoallergenic properties.
TX5 is the plastic of choice for all contemporary Stepper frames. More recently, working within Arts has allowed the design and manufacturing with this material to move forward enormously. Thinner, more delicate designs are now possible as the product development team push what can be achieved with this remarkable Polyamide.
Under Arts ownership, the brand has had access to one of the most advanced Titanium spectacle design, technology and manufacturing facilities available. This material is the perfect fit for Stepper products. Its lightness, strength, rigidity, durability, plasticity (in Beta form) and hypoallergenic characteristics make it a great metal alternative to the TX5 material. The metal collections in recent years have flourished, with Stepper no longer being only associated with plastic. Combining Titanium with TX5 has resulted in some of Stepper’s most successful frames, all retaining the ‘comfort and fit’ philosophy.
Comfort and fit are not confined only to the nose area, there are various elements that make a good fitting and comfortable frame:
- The overall frame curve
- The temple opening angle at the lug
- The temple curve
- Pantoscopic angle
- Temple tip bending angle and inside-outside curve
- Strength and flexibility of the frame material
Persistence in the brand’s fundamental design principles means Stepper has developed an almost unique reputation for quality, well-fitting frames. It may produce very classically styled frames but at its core are innovation and technology. As a brand, Stepper will continue creating frames for professional opticians and this focus will never change. Forty-five years since it first began making frames, Stepper certainly has a comfortable future.