Aug 5, 2019

Hannah Dreams Big Despite Vision Loss

Beacon Stories

Hannah has always had dreams of starting her own fashion line. And despite being diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa at the age of 15, she recently began an intimate company, Watson & Wilma.

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Since a young age, Hannah Steininger has had a dream of starting her own fashion line. But after a routine eye doctor visit at the age of 15, Hannah was referred to a specialist and diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa (RP).

When Hannah first received her diagnosis of RP, she didn’t take the news very seriously.

“I didn’t acknowledge the diagnosis,” recalls Hannah. “There was a mobility instructor through my high school that wanted to help me, but I wanted absolutely nothing to do with it.”

Photo of Hannah Steininger

Hannah Steininger

After high school, Hannah attended the University of Wisconsin-Stout to pursue a degree in fashion merchandising and management. Hannah started realizing it was hard for her to see small details in clothing, so she adapted by taking more classes to learn about the business-side of fashion.

Once Hannah graduated from college, she immediately started worked at a marketing agency. But after only five months, she felt no purpose and decided to quit to follow her dream of starting her own fashion line, Watson & Wilma, a name she thought of when she was only 12 years old.

“I came up with the name Watson & Wilma when I was 12,” says Hannah. “That was when I fell in love with fashion and decided I wanted to create my own line. The name just stuck and I feel like nothing else would be fitting.”

Hannah decided to design an item of clothing that she has always loved: intimates.  

“There are no other intimates that are ethically made locally in Minnesota, so I wanted to create that,” says Hannah. “I had a friend make the connection that RP is an invisible disease, since no one else can see that I have it, which is similar to intimates, in a sense. Intimates are super important, like vision, but they are not visible to another person.”

Hannah has adapted her business process by enlisting help through pattern makers at the University of Minnesota and a local Minneapolis seamstress to sew the pieces. The intimates are all made with sustainable fabrics, like bamboo and cotton, and every piece is made to order which cuts down on fabric waste. Hannah has also been learning to use natural dyes for her fabrics using vegetables and plants.

I feel like I let my diagnosis hold me back for a while, but now it’s just a part of who I am and I want to raise awareness for the visually impaired community

Hannah donates 5% of each sale to the Penny George Institute for Health and Healing in hopes to increase awareness about the Institute that has helped her through her vision loss process so far.

Now 25 years old, Hannah feels like she has accepted her RP and wants to continue living and thriving with a hopeful outlook on life.

“I feel like I let my diagnosis hold me back for a while, but now it’s just a part of who I am and I want to raise awareness for the visually impaired community, “ says Hannah. “There’s a lot of hope out there. You just have to be open minded and up for trying anything.”