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“Find something you love to do and doesn’t matter what it is and it doesn’t matter what it pays. Find something you love to do that [makes] you want to get out of bed in the morning.” —Steve Madden, Fashion Designer and Businessman
This was the advice fashion designer Steve Madden gave an audience at the Michigan Theater during a Q&A session. Fashion elites, journalists, and other media, as well as University of Michigan students, filled the theater to view the premiere of Steve Madden’s documentary.
MADDMAN: The Steve Madden Story, directed by Ben Patterson, chronicles Madden’s life detailing his youth, how he started his shoe empire with just $1,100, his time in prison, and how he’s living his life now.
No, Steve Madden is not just a shoe brand. He is an actual person. If you didn’t know Steve Madden before, after watching the documentary, you will definitely know who he is and quite possibly have a newfound respect for him.
UM senior Jack Googasian said he felt the film was “incredibly impactful.”
“It was a very honest, straightforward telling of his story, which most people would want to sweep their shortcomings under the rug, but I think it’s a very human aspect of the film and his story to be able to share those and say how he’s developed as a person across his whole career.” —Jack Googasian, UM Senior
No Sugarcoating it. Steve Madden Keeps It 100!
Googasian’s friend Taylor Grier, also a student at UM said she also liked the film and thought it was “really interesting.” Although she was already familiar with the brand Steve Madden, having worn the shoes, Grier said she never knew anything about the fashion designer’s life.
She thought the documentary was presented in a “cool perspective” and it was “really unique.” Grier said the film “didn’t sugarcoat [Madden] at all. They didn’t make him seem like a super fluffy, nice guy. He was real and raw.”
It’s true. In the documentary film, Madden doesn’t hold anything back. He is very candid about the hardships he faced in his life, including overcoming a drug addiction and serving two and a half years in prison for stock fraud.
The film “didn’t sugarcoat [Madden] at all. They didn’t make him seem like a super fluffy, nice guy. He was real and raw.” —Taylor Grier, UM Student
MADDMAN: The Steve Madden Story Teaches Second Chances
Perhaps it’s safe to say after serving his time in prison, Madden has a new outlook on life. In the film, he mentioned he learned to slow down and that life isn’t all about money. His children also became a great focus for his life.
MADDMAN: The Steve Madden Story is an honest and inspiring film. If anything, the documentary teaches you to believe in second chances and to have compassion for others who make mistakes. “People make mistakes,” Madden said during the Q&A, “and you know, we just have to have compassion. You have to have compassion for yourself, most importantly.”
“You have to have compassion for yourself, most importantly.” —Steve Madden, Fashion Designer
In His Own Words…
Audience members were given the chance to ask Madden questions after the film was over. Here are a few quotes from the Q&A session with Steve Madden.
On being in prison:
“It’s heartbreaking being in prison.”
On prison reforms:
“I think they give to much time to drug dealers. I think they give too much time out to people anyway, particularly the drug dealers. There was some racial stuff going on with that.” Madden said he felt the “biggest problem in the system” was the drug laws, describing it as “kind of racist.”
“There’s philosophers who say you can tell a lot about a society by the way they treat their prisoners so I think we can do a lot better. It’s not working, the whole drug thing.
On why he always wears a hat all of the time:
Madden jokingly said, “I feel like I look younger with my hat backward.” He then said his wearing a hat “kinda became a trademark. People give me hats.” (referring to his customers)
On saying something to Jordan Belfort:
“Honestly, on some level, I really admire Jordan.” Madden said Belfort is “one of the smartest guys I ever met in my life. We would not be a success if I didn’t meet Jordan Belfort. I would be a hypocrite if I criticized Jordan for breaking the law and being a lunatic. The only thing I would say about Jordan Belfort is, if he played it straight he would be super rich, super successful anyway because he was a borderline genius. And that’s what I would tell him.”
On how his business would be different if he had not worked with Jordan Belfort:
“There may not be a big Steve Madden Company. They certainly gave me the seed money to grow the business.”
Madden also said:
“The fact that I had to let go of the control of the company because of what happened to me is the reason why the company is so big and successful today. And that’s the difference between me and a lot of founders. My hand was forced by the government to let go so I had to let go and I hired these amazing people to help me.”
On people who influenced him:
Madden said he was influenced by many people, such as Richard Pryor, Peter O’Toole, and Spike Lee. “Any kind of artist that was really, like, out there doing new things…seeing them, that was inspirational to me.”
On being the creative director and head designer of the brand:
“For me, it’s about my job and getting hot shoes on other people. That’s always been my charge.”
On why Ann Arbor, MI was chosen for the film premiere:
“We have so many people in our company from Michigan,” Madden said. He noted that there are executives in the Steve Madden Company whose children go to UM. “[Michigan] is a big thing in New York for some reason.”
On turning creativity into a career and Cardi B.:
“It’s my experience, even the very most talented people, whether they’re artists with a brush or singers, are so motivated and such hard workers on top of their talent. You know, because I think there’s a lot of talented people– singers– that maybe don’t show up or don’t, you know, work at their craft. They don’t make it. I believe that. I’ve seen that. It’s always amazing to me when I meet some big stars how motivated they are, you know, like Cardi B.”
On where he sees the Steve Madden Company in the future:
“I just want to get better. I want the company to get better at everything it does today…We have to make better shoes, better handbags.”
Maddman: The Steve Madden Story will be out on iTunes December 1, 2017. You can access the website here.
Director: Ben Patterson
Producers: Ben Patterson, Andrew Herwitz, Mitchell Fink, Gabriella Weiser