LOWA History

The next generation

Sepp and Berti Lederer

Good and bad fortune were walking hand in hand when the former apprentice Josef Lederer, nicknamed Sepp, returned to LOWA. The company had run into economic problems, and Lorenz Wagner, the head of the company and its founder, had died. At the same time, Sepp fell in love with Berta Wagner and married her. Together with Berta’s brother, Josef Wagner, the new generation managed to save the company and turn it into an inter­na­tionally known and successful brand.

A new name and new shoes

Lorenz Wagner had to reor­ganise the shoe factory after the end of World War II. The buildings and machinery were still in place. But boots for mountain infantry soldiers were no longer needed, and the French prisoners of war who made up most of LOWA’s workforce had returned home.

Even though demand for shoes was heavy during the postwar years – the competition was, too. The Wagner brothers in Weichs and Vierkirchen were vying against other shoe factories in and around Munich to establish their place in the marketplace.

The “Ilmtaler Sportschuh­fabrik” had to reinvent itself, hire workers and attract new customers. Lorenz Wagner created the LOWA brand using the first two letters of his two names. The first collections sold during the postwar years had a very wide range. LOWA produced more and more Bavarian Haferl shoes, moun­tain­eering boots and ski boots as well as sandals, light­weight low-cut shoes, après ski boots and fur slippers.

  • LOWA History
  • LOWA History

Business problems arise

Material and money were in short supply at the beginning of the 1950s. The Korean crisis intensified this situation. Leather, the essential material of LOWA’s business, was in short supply, and prices for it were extremely high. Lorenz Wagner bought huge amounts of leather.

Sepp Lederer talked about the reasons for Wagner’s buying decisions in an interview he gave later: “A few cunning busi­nesspeople took advantage of the situation and said: buy, buy! – the price is just going to go up! Six months later, the Korean crisis had passed and leather prices plummeted. This was 1950/51. One day, we could not get any more money from the bank to pay our wages.” – LOWA faced bank­ruptcy.

A plan to save the shoe factory was needed. Fortu­nately, Lorenz Wagner had exactly the right man and the right woman already at the company. His daughter Berta (Berti) Wagner was commercial director of LOWA at this point. Sepp Lederer, who had recently been released from POW camp, was working as a shop manager in the shoe factory. Sepp Lederer had actually been planning to stay “just one year”. But he could not abandon the company during this financial crisis. He and his future wife assumed respons­ibility for the company. The creditors urged LOWA to reach a settlement, but Sepp and Berti succeeded in nego­tiating a moratorium with them – that is a delay in payments.

It was a highly stressful time. Berti Lederer later said that the company faced bank­ruptcy every month and it had to be prevented over and over again. But the two managed to overcome the chal­lenges – and the events drew Berti and Sepp closer together. They married on 5 July 1952. Lorenz Wagner exper­ienced these dramatic events during the last year of his life. He died in 1953 at the age of 60. But LOWA was not out of the woods yet.

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Berti Lederer recalled the events decades later: “I was about to give birth when my father died in April 1953. Sepp and I walked behind the coffin on the way to the cemetery. We were over­whelmed by the outpouring of sympathy we received in Jetzendorf. Sepp spon­tan­eously pressed my arm and said as he looked over the entire workforce that was attending the funeral: We simply cannot close the company. That would be the last thing that Lorenz would have wanted. We’ll keep going!”

LOWA on the world’s highest mountains

By the mid-1950s, the crisis had passed. The son of the company’s founder, Josef Wagner, also joined LOWA. He oversaw production oper­ations and joined Sepp Lederer in running the company. Berti Lederer continued to oversee sales. In 1957, the second generation of the family-run company set up a limited part­nership, LOWA KG. Sepp Lederer and Josef Wagner became personally liable partners. Berti Lederer acted as limited partner. LOWA discon­tinued its production of street and Haferl shoes and focused on making high-quality moun­tain­eering and ski footwear. The first marketing campaigns were conducted. Brochures were printed and trade fairs visited. At the time, LOWA made a name for itself by outfitting many high-mountain exped­itions. Inter­na­tional mountain climbers visited the shoemaker in the Bavarian town of Jetzendorf to seek out the company’s advice and order bespoke footwear. The golden age of “moun­tain­eering and ski boots with a kick” began.

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The next generation 100 years of LOWA


LOWA exper­iences a crisis.

The Korean conflict causes the avail­ability and prices of leather to swing sharply, and the company miscal­culates. The former apprentice Josef Lederer, who was managing director by this time, and Lorenz’s daughter Berta, the head of sales, rescue the company. Josef and Berta marry on 5 July.


Lorenz Wagner, the head of the company and its founder, has died. The next generation takes over the management of the company.

Sepp and Berta Lederer succeed in stabilising the economic situation of the shoe factory.


LOWA KG is estab­lished on 13 February 1957.

Josef Lederer and his brother-in-law Josef Wagner become personally liable partners. Berti Lederer acts as limited partner. The new marketing strategy: LOWA focuses on collab­oration with exper­ienced mountain climbers and provides the equipment used during exped­itions to the world’s highest mountains during the following years.


The “moun­tain­eering and ski boots with a kick” are a hit, and LOWA continues to grow.

At this point, the company employs 95 people and generates turnover of about DM 2.5 million.


Josef Lederer boldly invests in the future of LOWA.

After acquiring a vulcanising system in the 1960s, he purchases a poly­urethane injection moulding machine for ski boots. In doing so, he becomes an industry pace­setter. LOWA TOTAL is introduced to the market.


The devel­opment team at LOWA then pulls off its next big success.

With the help of an inflatable air cushion, the inner-boot of a ski boot can be adjusted to exactly fit the wearer’s foot. The new boot is christened LOWA AIR and remains a top seller for years.


LOWA expands sales beyond Germany.

On 25 October 1977, Fritz Müller of Interlaken signs an agreement that remains in effect today LOWA Switzerland continues to be a subsidiary.


The year of 1982 marks a moun­tain­eering-boot milestone.

With the TREKKER model, LOWA ventures into new terrain. With success! From now on, trekking shoes are an integral part of the collection.


LOWA employs more than 100 people in Altmühlmünster, Altmannstein, Pirmasens and Jetzendorf.

Twenty percent of the company’s shoes are exported.


The next change of gener­ations at LOWA appears on the horizon.

After Josef Wagner leaves LOWA in 1979, Josef Lederer resigns from his position and passes the reins of lead­ership to his son Stefan Lederer. Stefan Lederer then develops the area of trekking shoes and light­weight hiking boots.

  • LOWA History