25 Years of Sole: Interview with Steve Madden

Ashley Madden, Steve Madden, Mary-Kate Olsen

Ashley Olsen, Steve Madden, Mary-Kate Olsen

“It’s been one interesting journey,” shoe designer Steve Madden (pictured here with designer Betsey Johnson) modestly says. The design virtuoso and business mogul is celebrating 25 years of footwear fame. In a little over two decades, Madden has become one of the most influential artists of his time, turning his $1,100 investment into a multi-billion dollar company. In the midst of a typical workday, brimming with excitement and murmurs of cognac-colored suede, Madden filled us in on the story behind the shoes we each knowingly have in our closet.

What’s your favorite memory from the last 25 years? My first store in SoHo. Selling my first pair of shoes was a wonderful memory. I remember they were a pair of brown suede ankle boots. I was so delighted that someone would come into a store with my name.

How does it feel when you see other people wearing your designs? That’s the greatest feeling of all. That’s better than money. I want to brag, but I keep my mouth quiet these days. Fifteen years ago, I would have told them the shoe was mine.

What made you pick up a pencil and start sketching in the first place? Honestly, I was just trying to pay the rent. I love what I do, but this is what I do to feed my family. I’m a shoemaker, a cobbler.

Did you have designers that you looked up to when starting out?  I looked up to artists, moviemakers, actors and musicians more than shoe designers, such as Spike Lee and Peter O’Toole.

Describe the Steve Madden woman in three words. Confident. Feminine. Tasteful.

What Steve Madden shoe style best fits the Miami woman?  I have a new style called the Slithur, which was inspired by my trips to Florida.

You boldly started your business little in your bank account. What advice would you give to current start-ups? Find the right people to help you. A lot of times guys like me are perfectionists and sometimes it can paralyze you.

How do you balance commercialism with creativity? It’s a total struggle. You want to stay current and take risks, but you also have to ring the register — it’s a challenging paradigm.

Rumor has it that you’re making a documentary…dish! Yes, it will be on my story. There’s a line in the Grateful Dead song, “Truckin,” that goes “Lately it occurs to me what a long, strange trip it’s been” and that sort of applies to me.

What are your plans for the next 25 years? I’m interested in growing, getting better and working on new platforms — literally and figuratively.

Favorite spot in Miami? I went to the University of Miami so I have a lot, but my favorite is my store in Aventura Mall.

Last show you binge watched? Bloodlines and Mad Men. I’m so sad that Don Draper character is gone.

What is your most cherished album? Songs in the Key of Life by Stevie Wonder.

How about your guilty pleasure? Listening to country music.

A little tidbit: I just about died when I learned that I had the opportunity to interview Steve Madden. He was witty, honest and absolutely hysterical. From our joint-love of Don Draper to his music quotes, I instantly understood why everyone can’t get enough of the successful shoe scion. As a growing writer, this interview took the cake.This article originally ran on  -XO Jillian

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  • Ellese Launer

    wow! That is amazing that you were able to interview such an iconic designer of our time. He seems so humble and down to earth. I can’t wait to watch his documentary. XO, Ellese

    • Jillian Goltzman

      Thank you, Ellese! It was an incredible experience. Thanks for reading!

  • Serena Reale

    Wow Amazing interview

  • It’s amazing that you were given a chance to interview Steve Madden. Seems like a great guy.

    New Post – Makeup Revolution

    • Jillian Goltzman

      He was really wonderful! Thank you so much for reading, Chaicy!

  • Gina Daily

    How fun to get to interview Steve Madden! Also, I had honestly never seen a picture of him either so it was fun to see that as well. Funny that I could pick his shoes out of a crowd but not his face!

    Gina | On the Daily Express

    • Jillian Goltzman

      I hadn’t known what he looked like until pretty recently either! It’s funny because I didn’t expect him to look like that in my head lol. Thanks for reading, Gina!

  • Cool to hear all this. One of my favorite brands!

    Amy Ann
    Straight A Style

    • Jillian Goltzman

      Mine as well, Amy! It was great to meet the man behind the shoes. Thanks for reading!

  • Wow, such a great interview, girlie! You asked some GREAT questions; congrats on such a huge accomplishment! I love how real he was with you. How he mentioned how he started from nothing trying to pay his bills and support his family and now he’s become such a house hold name. I love his designs, which are always so practical, yet he provides such an awesome spectrum ranging from simple to bold statement.

    Have a wonderful day, beautiful and cheers to more awesome interviews!



    • Jillian Goltzman

      Jalisa, thank you so much for coming by and reading. The interview was definitely a defining accomplishment and I’m so thankful to have had it. Have a wonderful rest of your week!

      Xo Jillian

  • Missy May

    Well well, how lucky are you girl. Great interview!!