Steve Madden’s success story: the award-winning entrepreneur and designer started his path in the footwear business in 1990, with only 1,100 dollars on his bank account and his intuition that told him to anticipate consumer needs and provide avant-garde, but also saleable collections. A formula that has proven to be successful: today the Steve Madden brand is worth 3 billion dollars, with 350 stores worldwide, the acquisition of important brands such as BB Dakota, Betsey Johnson and GREATS (to name a few), extraordinary collaborations with stars and it continues to focus on new goals.
Taking a cue from the publication of the autobiography “The Cobbler”, Matteo Pasca, CEO of Edizioni AF, the leading Italian B2B editor for footwear, bags and tannery which Fotoshoe is also a part of, and general manager of Arsutoria School, the prestigious design school of Milan, reveals in the interview that follows a personal portrait of Steve Madden, his vision on the product and the market.
Yours is a story about second chances, do you want to talk about it?
No one would ever give me a nickel when I was young. My luck was to have worked very early in a shoe shop: even through the haze of drugs and drinking of my twenties, the passion for the shoe business has always stayed with me. In each of us there is a part of good and bad: I have to work hard every day, because my instincts are not always good. I have to have an ongoing struggle to be a better person.
Even a better leader?
I have always been convinced that strong leadership is needed to run an enterprise, the company needed it in the past, but today we have entered a phase where my skills are less important and I can count on a fantastic management.
How do you manage to capture trends and at the same time present a shoe at the right price?
It is a strenuous race in trying to have the most popular product, in search of the result: this is what we do with our team of experts. For us it is a real obsession. In practical terms, in addition to talent, we do tests in our stores to get the reactions of the public. Timing is also an important part of this equation.
Are trends local or global?
When I was young I used to go to Italy to trade fairs to take inspiration from the styles of the avant-garde proposals of Italian designers. I remember going to Civitanova Marche, San Mauro Pascoli, Rimini to look for the right footwear. Today the internet has approved fast fashion, making it the same everywhere.
Even if in America we literally go crazy for designer brands like Balenciaga, Gucci, for names like Golden Goose which is very “hot” right now or Gianvito Rossi …. young fashion is still the same in each part of the world.
You have announced that you want to be a leader in product sustainability: in what way?
In a world that is becoming increasingly green and where social issues are ever more important, we want to do our part. For us, sustainability means: using recyclable materials, producing less waste, promoting healthier working conditions.
I am, however, in the business to produce trendy shoes at the right price. So, even if I want to leave a smaller environmental footprint, it takes a fair balance between the two instances.
In any case, we are rapidly moving in this direction, even under the pressure that retailers are carrying out in this respect.
What will the retail of the future be?
There is no doubt that tomorrow brick & mortar will be less central than in the past, with fewer stores for the benefit of the growth of online commerce, but that does not mean that physical retail will disappear. Indeed, within a couple of years, once the situation has returned to normal, people will most likely want to experience direct shopping again and return to shop in-store.