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STEVE MADDEN: from the trunk of the car to success, an extraordinary story

Starting with a car, 500 pairs of shoes and only $1,100, Steve Madden has charted a successful path that has led him to the recognition of "Women's Footwear Brand of the Year"

STEVE MADDEN: from the trunk of the car to success, an extraordinary story

The prestigious US footwear brand, Steve Madden, has won the title of “Women‘s Footwear Brand of the Year” at the renowned Drapers Footwear Awards 2023 in June.

Originally founded  in New York, the brand has also extended its presence to the United Kingdom, consolidating itself as a benchmark in the sector. A tangible sign of this success is the opening of a new store in the summer of 2023 on one of London’s most iconic streets, Oxford Street.

Initially known mainly for women’s footwear, Steve Madden has been able to adapt to the needs of a wider audience, introducing several collections also intended for men. In addition, it has expanded its product range to include stylish handbags for women. This flexibility and ability to evolve has helped position the brand as a dominant force in international markets.

Steve Madden’s story begins way back in 1990, when the founder embarked on his entrepreneurial adventure with just $1,100 in his bank account. Today, the brand boasts an impressive value of $3 billion, with a global presence through 350 stores. Its steady growth is also evidenced by the acquisition of notable brands, the latest of which was the addition of Almost Famous to its prestigious list.

However, you may be surprised to discover a detail that may not be known to everyone: Steve Madden, before achieving his current success, spent 31 months behind bars.

The Steve Madden Story

Steve Madden was born in 1958 in Far Rockaway, Queens, New York, the son of a Jewish mother and a Catholic father. From a young age, he approached the world of work in a shoe store, where he developed a deep passion for fashion and began to see the opportunities offered by this fascinating industry.

After completing his high school studies, Steve enrolled at the University of Miami, attending classes for two years.

steve madden | shoestechnologies
Steve Madden
Photo credit: Steve Madden website

However, his father’s disappointment with his grades forced him to interrupt his studies, sending him back to New York. Here he began his working career, first in a clothing store and later in a wholesale of women’s boots, where he proposed himself as a sales representative.

This experience, which lasted for almost a decade, proved to be fundamental for his training in the sector, allowing him to acquire a deep knowledge of the business.

During these years, Steve Madden also faced personal challenges related to drug and alcohol addiction issues, marking a period of growth and hardship that would ultimately contribute to his extraordinary success story.

A passion for shoes

steve madden | shoestechnologies
Photo credit: Steve Madden website

In the early 1990s, Steve Madden founded his eponymous company, investing, as already mentioned, only $1,100. Production began with 500 pairs of shoes, inaugurating with the Marilyn model, a clog with a rounded toe. The designer began marketing this first model directly on the streets of New York, using a car and carrying clogs in a trunk.

Subsequently, he introduced another masterpiece to the market, the Mary Lou model, characterized by a patent leather workmanship that allowed a rapid expansion of the company. From here, an endless series of new models followed the wave of success, allowing Steve Madden to establish himself more and more in the footwear market.

steve madden | shoestechnologies
Mary Lou
Photo credit: zappos website

His creativity and resourcefulness allowed him to dominate the industry, consolidating his position as a leading figure in the world of footwear fashion.

His first shop and arrest

1993 was a turning point in Steve Madden’s life, when he opened his first flagship store  in SoHo and decided to list the company on the New York Stock Exchange in the same year, through a public offering managed by Stratton Oakmont.

Among the members of this company is an old friend of Steve’s, Danny Porush, associated with Jordan Belfort, the entrepreneur involved in fraudulent activities and money laundering, known to have been arrested in 1998.

Belfort’s story was later immortalized in Martin Scorsese’s film, “The Wolf of Wall Street,” which also references Steve Madden’s IPO. To better understand this intricate situation, it is advisable to watch Scorsese’s film.

However, let’s try to summarize the facts:

the company was granted admission to the Nasdaq on the condition that Stratton Oakmont retain 5% of the shares. The complication arose in 1997, when Stratton Oakmont declared bankruptcy, leading to the arrest of its founders. Steve Madden, in court, claims he was deceived; However, in 2000, he too was indicted, experiencing a tumultuous chapter in his entrepreneurial career.

A Second Chance

In 2001, Steve Madden made the difficult decision to step down as CEO of his company, while he found himself in the middle of a series of lawsuits that forced him to pay fines and compensate the sums stolen from deceived savers.

Despite his 31-month imprisonment, Madden remains involved with the brand as a creative head, earning a salary of $700,000 a year. The law prevents him from holding executive positions or serving on the board of directors until 2008.

In 2005, at the end of his sentence, Steve Madden was released from prison and married Wendy Ballew, who was already involved in the company, with whom he had three children.

From this point on, Steve Madden’s company experienced a real renaissance, recording a significant increase in sales in 2006, from 100 to 475 million dollars. In the same year, Steve Madden was recognized with the prestigious title of “Company of the Year” at the Footwear News Achievement Awards.

From this point on, Steve Madden shows no intention of slowing down; on the contrary, we see an increase in his collections with the opening of new stores, the latest entry being  the Oxford Street store, which is of particular importance to the designer, considering that the UK is one of the most crucial shopping destinations in the world. In fact, the Oxford Street store represents the brand’s second location in London, alongside the Westfield shopping centre, which opened in 2019.

In addition to this geographic expansion, the brand recently acquired the Almost Famous brand  for $52 million, further consolidating its presence in the footwear and fashion industries.

Who is Almost Famous? a well-known player in the market, it has built its reputation by marketing products under its own brands and producing for various retailers, reaching its audience through several avenues, including chain stores in the United States, warehouses, and retailers.

As of 2022, Almost Famous holds the exclusive license for Madden NYC apparel. However, the acquisition is subject to a working capital adjustment and earnings related to future financial performance.

This strategic step signifies Steve Madden’s determination to consolidate his brand’s position in the global market, focusing on key collaborations and significant expansions.

Steve Madden Spring-Summer 2024 Collection

Steve Madden’s creations continue to amaze us with bold, out-of-the-box footwear designs. The brand’s proposals demonstrate the constant harmony with current fashion trends, offering footwear that attracts a wide audience of all age groups.

The collections feature a complete range, ranging from elegant heeled shoes, to comfortable flat shoes, to sporty and versatile sneakers, thus satisfying the preferences of each individual. However, Steve Madden doesn’t limit himself to just offering standard options; Its line also includes super exclusive footwear with special details.

For  the spring-summer 2024 season, the brand presented a variety of footwear, ranging from the simplest slippers to models embellished with studs, glitter and inverted heels. If you’re ready to take a look at Steve Madden’s upcoming footwear, we invite you to explore the wide selection in his online store.

We have selected three models (with heels, lows and sneakers) from the 2024 collection that deserve special attention:

  • Lotus Sandal

This sandal comes in three fascinating variants: Magenta and Light Blue, ideal for those with a charismatic and effervescent personality, and silver with rhinestone stripes, designed for lovers of the most glamorous style. The peculiarity of this sandal lies in the wedge, characterized by a special detail: an inverted heel.

steve madden | shoestechnologies
Photo credit: Steve Madden website

With these shoes, Steve Madden wants to convey his constant commitment to following fashion trends. In fact, the use of particular or transparent heels has been a trend since 2023 and continues to gain popularity. The choice of such a contemporary style demonstrates the brand’s always avant-garde vision in the world of footwear fashion.

  • Dalia Ballet Flats

If you’ve been following our articles, you’ll have noticed that ballet flats are back in vogue, and Steve Madden now presents a contemporary, durable product with a glam charm.

Available in two elegant color variants: silver and denim, these ballet flats feature  a pointed d’orsay construction, embellished with textured rivets and buckles that emphasize the design in both the front and back, all on a synthetic sole. In short, a real treat for those who like to keep up with the latest fashion trends.

steve madden | shoestechnologies
Photo credit: Steve Madden website
  • Sneakers “Possession”
steve madden | shoestechnologies
Photo credit: Steve Madden website

Steve Madden’s sporty style remains consistently recognizable in his footwear, highlighting a particular care for the wearer. To slim the figure even without the aid of heels, Steve Madden inserts a platform in these shoes. This detail, although discreet, helps to give a touch of elegance and momentum to the profile.

This shoe combines the charm of a cool style with comfort, featuring a rubber sole and an upper made of imitation leather and fabric. Versatile and suitable for any occasion, this shoe lends itself to being worn with outfits ranging from jeans to skirts, offering a touch of fashion and comfort without compromise.

Dragon collection 2024 Steve Madden NY

Steve Madden celebrates Chinese New Year 2024 with the  creation of an extraordinary capsule collection, born in Malaysia and imbued with the brand’s distinctive essence. Titled “Dragon Collection,” this collection reflects the festive spirit of Chinese New Year, embodying the values of growth, vitality, and good fortune for the new year.

The choice of colors, red and gold, further accentuates the festive atmosphere, while the capsule features some of Steve Madden’s best-sellers:

The POISE sneakers, embellished with rhinestones and accompanied by a mini tassel charm, to elevate New Year’s Eve celebrations. The CHAKRA sandals, characterized by a thick sole that offers maximum support. The tricolor sole and Velcro closure make this sandal unique and irresistible to the eyes.

steve madden | shoestechnologies
Photo credit: Steve Madden website
steve madden | shoestechnologies
Photo credit: Steve Madden website

The capsule also includes Steve Madden’s iconic bags. These include the BGLOWING and BMARVIS shoulder bags, both of which are imbued with Chinese New Year-inspired elements. An extraordinary collection that combines style and tradition, offering a festive tribute to this important celebration.

So, we invite you to discover the wide variety of products and collections offered by Steve Madden. Through the brand’s online store, you will have the opportunity to explore not only the wide range of footwear, but also fascinating bag proposals.

This diversification of products fits harmoniously into the brand’s philosophy, ensuring a complete selection of options that will certainly suit your style and preferences.

You may also be interested in the following articles:

Elisabetta Franchi: ageless fashion. From her debut at Pitti Bimbo to the launch of her first line of shoes for girls

Elisabetta Franchi: ageless fashion. From her debut at Pitti Bimbo to the launch of her first line of shoes for girls

The renowned Italian designer presents her timeless vision of fashion, expanding her creative realm with the new collection of shoes for little fashionistas.

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