IRIS WOMAN – STEPHANIE VON STEIN
Stephanie Von Stein Shot at her Houston residence | Dress by Ralph Lauren | Hair using Orbie products | Makeup using Tom Ford and Hour Glass products
Can you tell us how you became interested in working on the administrative side of fashion?
My mother had stores when I was growing up and I enjoyed working alongside her and learning the business. When I was in college I worked for a woman whose husband co-founded an international franchised chain of restaurants. I learned a lot about entrepreneurship and relationship building through her and spending time with her family. I worked on a lot of fashion shows and because I loved fashion so much it really didn’t seem like a job to me at all!
What do you think is the most challenging aspect of your job?
Traveling away from my children is the most challenging part. When I worked as a regional manager I had nine stores in the USA and had to travel internationally every few months. I soon pursued a different career which would keep me home with my family. They mean the absolute world to me.
What advice would you give to anyone looking to pursue the business side of fashion?
I would tell someone to find a mentor in the fashion business and offer to be an intern or a paid assistant on some level. Be ready to work and be humble. Do any job they ask. If you have a great personality and are willing to work you will be successful.
Can you tell us about some of your charitable causes and which one’s do you feel the most connected to?
I worked with crimestoppers last year talking with women about domestic violence. I was invited to be on a panel which included representatives from the police, district attorney’s office, and women victim’s advocate groups. This is my passion to help people who are caught in the cycle of domestic violence and show that it can happen in any socioeconomic group.
You have turned your experience as a domestic abuse survivor into something that has been able to empower women. Can you talk about what motivated you to speak out for the greater good?
I spent a long time being very humiliated and embarrassed about my personal situation and what had happened to me. I blamed myself for not seeing the signs and getting out sooner. When the man I loved called me names, screamed at me, said I was fat, ugly, stupid over and over again I started to believe it. When the person I loved hit me, pushed me around, and then blamed me for his behavior, I began to think I deserved it. I realized that by hiding this situation I wasn’t helping anyone or myself. Once I began talking with other victims and survivors I realized I could help them as much as myself. I have finally felt I wasn’t alone and many women come to me even privately now for assistance and guidance on the cycle of violence.
Can you explain what some common reasons domestic abuse victims continue in abusive relationships?
I loved my abuser and kept thinking if I could get him help he would be ok. He would desperately apologize and beg me to stay and tell me how much he loved me. Then the abuse would start again after a period of calm. I wanted to keep our family together and had a newborn baby at the time. No time is ever a good time to destroy your family life. But one minute everything was fine and then something would trigger him and the abuse would start all over again.
Have you ever experienced any stigmatization or victim-shaming in or around your circle of friends?
People do not like to talk about domestic violence. People tend to stick their heads in the sand and don’t want to think this happens to their friends and neighbors. It’s the elephant in the room. Most people have been very supportive of me and have shared their experiences too. I have been very blessed in this regard.
What are practical ways that those close to a victim can offer support?
Listen to them and believe them when they tell you what happened. It took me a very long time to ever discuss what had happened or go to the police. Often times, abuse victims don’t want to leave because of the financial stability their partner or spouse provides because they may not have an income of their own. Sometimes they are also threatened by the abuser that they will be killed or that their family will be harmed if they leave.
In Houston, AVDA is a great resource because they have attorneys who can assist with filing restraining orders. Be strong for them and contact the hotline for domestic violence: 1-800-787-3224. This hotline is especially helpful because it will give you the names of resources that can provide practical assistance such as housing, legal, and financial advice. It will also aid you in coming up with an emergency safety plan.
What are some of the methods that you use to engage and empower women?
I try to tell women and friends to remember how smart and beautiful they are. Remember to use your voice even if you think it has been lost. I also encourage women to find an outlet to read about domestic violence, narcissistic abuse,
and the domestic violence cycle so they can recognize the signs in dating and marriage. This will help prevent them from getting caught again with someone with those tendencies.
What makes you feel confident & powerful?
When my children tell me how much they love me and are proud of me. There is no greater confidence and power boost to me than having a happy and peaceful home.
Photography and Interview by Dustin Mansyur | Styling by Marc Sifuentes | Art Direction by Louis Liu | Hair and Makeup by Tarek El-bjeirmi @ Cerón Hair Studio