Exclusive interview with Steve Madden – the man behind the shoes

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Steve Madden by the San Diego EntertainerSteve Madden (SM) has become a household name when it comes to shoes and in the past twenty years the company has set the standard for men and women’s fashion.  It’s surprising to think that the company that dominates women’s mid-price shoe market began with 500 pairs of shoes made from a line of credit taken out by Madden himself.  This humble beginning for Steve Madden Ltd. as he marketed his designs to New York City area stores, began to succeed with Madden’s first big-seller the Mary-Lou.  The company expanded rapidly after that and today it continues to capture brand loyalty of the fickle teen age group.  As he prepared to do a meet and greet last weekend at the Nordstrom in Fashion Valley mall the San Diego Entertainer (SDE) was able to spend some time getting to know the man behind the shoes.

SDE: Since you are constantly designing shoes for men and women, where do you get your inspiration from?
SM: Fear, because it’s what I do for a living. I have children and people to take care of so that motivates me to keep creating shoes. And it’s a good question because it’s very difficult to keep this up, you know, as long as I’ve done it. But I’ve had a lot of help. It’s not only me; I’m just saying it’s difficult. It never ends you just have to keep coming up with hits all the time. It’s like being a pop star.

SDE: If you could go back and relive any time in your life what would it be?
SM: It’s funny that you would ask me that, I think about that a lot. I was in prison for two and a half years, but that was about ten years ago and I don’t regret it. That I wouldn’t want to relive. I bring that up because that’s the obvious one that comes to mind you know, but I learned so much by having my freedom taken away. My twenties I was so foolish, you know, and I feel like I wasted my twenties. Maybe most people in their twenties do that. At 54 I feel so vital, and strong, and creative and I imagine if I was thirty and how great that would be. But my twenties were a complete waste and I did a lot it was just a blur and I wish I could take that back.

SDE: So do you have any advice for someone in their twenties?
SM: The thing about that is that when you’re 25 and 30 and 20 you don’t think that you’re going to die. You know that you’re going to die intellectually, but you really don’t believe it. You really feel immortal because it’s just so far off that it’s just not even something, but when you get to be fifty, and you get to be my age you know that you’re gonna die and it changes your perspective on life. It’s heavy. It’s a heavy thought, but it’s true and that’s the thing. It’s precious. I guess you tend to be frivolous with your time in your twenties that you wouldn’t be let’s say in your 40s, 50s, and 60s when you know that every day is cool and a gift. Like in your 20s you could spend four days in bed.

SDE: What do you think your biggest contribution to the fashion industry is?
SM: No one has ever done what we’ve done in shoes in the industry. I mean ever, probably. In sneakers it’s been Nike. There’s been a lot of great shoe companies, lots of great shoe guys, but no one has consistently made shoes on trend for this long and cared about their customers as much probably in the history of the shoe business. It’s been big, time will tell what that’s like.

SDE: Do you have a favorite shoe that you designed?
SM: Yeah, there’s a combat boot will nail heads with studs that you should look for. It’s called that TRANEYY it’s great.

SDE: If you weren’t designing shoes, what kind of profession do you think you would have?
SM: I would like to be in the entertainment business somehow. A director, writer, something creative still.

Overall, it doesn’t appear that Steve Madden will be leaving his current position anytime soon.  This bodes will for his avid followers who eagerly look forward to each new collection as it appears in stores.


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