Steve Madden

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Wednesday, Oct. 11 at the Michigan Theatre, “Maddman: The Steve Madden Story,” a documentary featuring the life story of Steve Madden, premiered. The film began with interviews of customers being asked if they knew who Steve Madden was. Some people didn’t even think that he was a real person, but that “Steve Madden” was just the company’s name. As the film showed, Steve Madden is very much a real person, who is unapologetically himself; he’s in his late fifties, never seen without his trademark: a baseball hat, swears at least once every other sentence and has a brilliant perspective on life.

After struggling to make it through college because of the distracting party scene, his growing addiction to alcohol, and his ADHD, he decided to quit school and get a job in a shoe store. This is where he discovered his passion for designing shoes; he became one of the top salesmen in the store and experienced every job involved in the shoe production industry. In 1990, with $1,100, the help of his doorman and some loyal friends, he founded Steve Madden Ltd. and sold shoes out of the trunk of his car. Soon, his trendy designs took off and his sales escalated, making his company worth billions and named “Company of the Year.”

Madden has had some struggles along the way, but he has never failed to stay creative and passionate about his company. Even when he was imprisoned for stock manipulation, money and stock fraud, it didn’t kill his drive. While serving his time, he tried his best to play a role within the company, and right after he was released, he jumped back into working for his company full time. Instead of trying to push away the struggles he’s experienced in life, Madden embraces them; he is still friends with his prior inmates and has even helped people in jail find jobs after their release. In addition, he donates to The Doe Fund, an organization that helps rehabilitate criminals, the homeless and addicts.

During the Q and A after the film, Madden opened up about what advice he’d give based on his own experiences. He emphasized that second chances and compassion are what people need to give and receive to be successful in life. He also discussed his thoughts on careers: "It's more important you are in a career you love rather the job that pays you the most money at the moment, that's a big lesson that I want to share with people." This a huge statement coming from such a wealthy and successful person because he’s saying that money doesn’t equal success. "But if you have a job you love, and you wake up in the morning, the game is rigged in your favor. You have won the game of life," Madden said.