He is a shoe designer who makes you believe shoes are not just about function and fashion. They can be about expressing yourself. Of course, some of his edgy, fashion-forward designs are not for the faint-hearted. Besides Lady Gaga, Steve Madden’s rock ‘n’ roll-inspired shoe collections have been a huge hit with music artistes such as Katy Perry and Miley Cyrus.
“Music is in the DNA of what I do,” says Madden, who has created a music division called Steve Madden Music to showcase upcoming talent.
The award-winning designer has also started making handbags, belts and other accessories, and will launch his collection in India in October. We asked Madden how he made platforms a fashion phenomenon and what to add to our shoe closet this season. Edited excerpts from an interview:
Tell us about your beginnings in the shoe business.
I started at a young age as a stock boy in a shoe store called Toulouse on Long Island. It was a really hip store. They couldn’t keep me off the selling floor, even though I was supposed to be in the back with the shoes. I fell in love with it. I went from stock boy to salesman for a great company. Then one day, I started to play around in the factory and started developing shoes, and I thought I could sell them. It was then that I started my own company.
Stilletos epitomize sexiness— how do you manage to make wedges and platforms look sexy?
When I started out, I was very much inspired by the rock ‘n’ roll stars of that day. Led Zeppelin, David Bowie—they were all wearing these great platform shoes. When I first began designing shoes, I wanted to reinvent the platform shoe. It was a way to give that young, hip girl some height and sex appeal. Today, the trend is still here and remains a signature design of the brand. The wedges this season have some great feminine lines that really add to their appeal.
Accessorize: (clockwise from left) Every season, Madden works with new materials and techniques; tone-on-tone handbags; and shoes with bows are a big trend this season.
Which are the five kinds of footwear every woman should have in her wardrobe?
Every woman should have a great pair of boots—I’m loving combat boots or boots with high heels or wedges. Man-tailored is still an important trend—a pair of Oxfords is a must-have. And then, of course, there are heels. You can never have enough—patent, glitter, leather. And every Madden girl needs a great wedge in her wardrobe. We have these covered leopard wedges in the line that are serious showstoppers.
Which are the biggest footwear and handbag trends this season?
The hottest trends would have to be neutrals and tone-on-tone and menswear-inspired looks. But there’s also a lot of femininity with bows and delicate embellishments.
Do you sell comfortable shoes at Steve Madden?
We do, but fashion comes first!
For women who can’t wear stilettos, what other kinds of heels will look just as sexy?
Kitten heels are lower and still look great. Flats are a huge trend too. Women can look just as sexy in a heel as a flat—it’s all about how you wear it.
Who is your favourite shoe designer?
Terry de Havilland. I’ve always been a fan of his sky-high shoes and rock ‘n’ roll-inspired designs. The man is a legend.
How high should party heels be and how big should your daily bag be this season?
Sky-high and big enough to fit all your stuff!
Will music artistes from India be promoted by Steve Madden Music?
Our music programme is all about what’s hot, new and relevant for our constituents. I hear there’s some great music coming out of India. I’ll definitely have to check it out.