Steve Madden :On New Beginnings

Paradigm Shifters is a series of interviews with a select group of women and men from eclectic walks of life. It will highlight unspoken, real-life insights on how they have been able to turn weakness into strength. A naked soul point of view of how their breakdowns were really a preparation for breakthroughs. They are your quintessential paradigm shifters; internal shifts converted into genuine change.

Everything I have ever done has been focused on this underlying theme of shifting the paradigm because, "What we think determines what we feel and what we feel determines what we do." Hence, why Empowered by You takes lingerie, which has traditionally been seen merely as a tool of seduction and redirected that energy as a tool of empowerment.

I hope from these stories you will look at your own situations, struggles and accomplishments through a different lens. At the very least you will be more equipped with real life tools to change your own paradigm. At the end of the day, we are our own Alchemist turning the silver we were born with into the gold we are destined to become.


Steve Madden - Founder of Steve Madden

What's the one thing that sets Steve Madden apart from other shoe stores?

Well we're not just a shoe store, we're wholesale and retail. In fact, wholesale is bigger than retail. But I think what sets us apart as a company is speed. That's always been our mantra. Our DNA is very sort of ADD. We have to do things right away.

I don't know if that coincides with my personality, I suppose it does, but certainly given the world today the speed is a good thing in this industry.

How do you keep your finger on the pulse and stay ahead of the curve?

I suppose it's a combination of many things. I have a great team, that's number one. When I started I was singularly focused, that's all I did. Now I have a family and kids.

As I've gotten older, I've needed a big team that shares my vision. It's a combination of hard work, talent, smelling the market, and smelling the street. We draw our inspiration from millions of places. It could be from anything. It could be from a plate of pasta. It could be from anything.

The retail industry is a little tough right now. You're expanding into other categories, how does that fit into your original business?

We try to take other categories and apply the same principles. We will be incorporating more of our accessory division into the stores. Jewelry, accessories, sunglasses, headphones.

People come to us for shoes. They love our shoes. But we're trying with accessories. Our retail business is actually up over the last year. I know everyone is trying to understand the digital platform and that's affected retail because I think some of the big guys are struggling to figure it out. The big department stores can't quite figure out the breakdown between the actual stores and the Internet.

We have a growing online business but I leave the platforms to other people. I'm interested in making the shoes. The Internet is fabulous but it's not replacing the experience of shopping in the store. My customer loves going to the mall. She loves the experience. I'm welcoming to the Internet, but it's just another platform.

You had some time to yourself to align your thoughts. What was your takeaway from that experience that you keep with you every day?

Well, the obvious is the things that we take for granted. I lived such a Spartan existence in prison. It was a painful lesson and I learned so many things. I thought a lot about surviving and survival.
Human beings have an amazing way of taking things for granted. I have a deeper appreciation for time and life. Time is very precious, it goes so quick. My favorite thing to do right now is to take naps. It's the greatest luxury in my life.

Because you live under such scrutiny, do you feel at times that you're misunderstood?

All the time. Because you're misunderstood, you start to question yourself. A few years back, I had these thoughts about somebody that I worked with. Everyone thought I was crazy and a few years later they turned out to be true. But at the time I kept thinking, well maybe they're right, maybe I just don't like him, maybe it's me.
One must trust their instincts.

What would you like your legacy to be?

Outside of the children, because obviously everyone wants to be remembered as a loving parent, I am a loyal friend and I have a big heart and one of my core beliefs is taking pride in one's work.
I believe that if you're a plumber, you should be a great plumber. Even if you don't make three hundred thousand a year, you're a success. Whatever it is, do it well. Then you're a success.

The America I grew up in -- this guy was the plumber, this guy was the carpenter, this guy was the baker. Everyone was proud of what they did, irrespective of the results. I like that, I miss that. I take a lot of pride in what I do and I take it very seriously. There are a lot of people like that, but I just feel there's not enough.

If your life was a book, what would the chapter of 2015 be titled and what would be the title for this year?

Last year would be "Loss". In the last year, I lost four people very close to me. My brother died. That was really hard. Very big parts of my life were gone.
This year would have to be "New Beginnings".