It’s not everyday that you get the chance to interview a world-renowned designer and business guru like Steve Madden, so when I was presented with the opportunity to spend time with the creative behind one of the biggest brands in the industry, I jumped on it.
It’s also not everyday that an interview starts with “Can you please take that off?” He was, of course, referring to the Steve Madden Rodayo booties I’d donned that day. A gentleman born in 1958 in Queens, New York, the shoe maven has created quite the following. He remembers every shoe he’s ever made, including his very first, “The Marilyn” which was a Western-inspired shoe with a closed toe and open back and I swear I remember this shoe too. Steve started the company with $1100 and by the time he was making the Marilyn shoe, he had ten thousand in the bank and was paying a handful of employees. By the mid to late nineties, and early millennium, Steve Madden had over a hundred stores (today there are 200) and was sold in department stores across the U.S.
When asked if he thought our consumerist mentality was getting in the way of seasons, Steve explained that season’s weren’t moving fast enough! “Girls wear sandals in October and boots in March, so that’s new,” but when it comes to design, it seems like there is never an ebb of design inspiration.
What many don’t realize is that Steve Madden is a super umbrella for favorite brands like Betsey Johnson, Report, Big Buddha and my personal favorite, Superga. When asked if that is a lot to handle, Steve says “yes”, but he’s mostly concentrated in the design and brand aesthetic of Steve Madden.
“We opened a store in SoHo in 1993 and I was on the floor and I remember the brown suede boots I sold. They were made in England. And I didn’t think anyone was going to buy anything. So I’m still shocked.” And low and behold, here he is, twenty years a wonderful marriage and three kids later still making the shoes women want to buy.