Milestone: Industry Sounds off

Footwear News asked those who know him best why Steve Madden has become such a force.

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Jack Minuk

Photo By Courtesy Photo

Debbie King

Photo By John Aquino

Jack Minuk, EVP & GMM of shoe division, Nordstrom
“We’ve purchased shoes from Steve Madden from the moment he started his own company. We knew Steve when he designed for another company, and we knew he’d be enormously successful if he struck out on his own. Steve is one of the most prolific and creative people in our industry. He is the ultimate student of fashion and of his customer. Steve has built a business model that allows him to respond to the changing fashion environment very quickly. In fact, they are the quickest in the industry. He’s the front-runner in the industry. Everyone is better because they chase him. To be a fashion leader for 20 years is very difficult. Most lose their edge, but Steve gets better and better.”

Russell Orlando, VP & fashion director of accessories, Macy’s
“When you go [to Steve Madden], they are so excited to show the product. The energy level is so high, it’s like they can’t wait to present what they have [for the season]. And they really cover all the bases with shoes. They’re always thinking about what to do next. That’s good for us [because] newness is selling. You need to have that now. When we go [to Steve Madden] we actually have to weed through and pare down, because there is such a plethora of exciting choices.”

Neil Cole, chairman & CEO, Iconix Brand Group Inc.
“Steve Madden has stood the test of time as a truly great shoe man. A self-described ‘cobbler,’ he has truly mastered the art. What I admire most about Steve is his ability to fight through adversity. Steve has dealt with a lot and has become a better person through it all. Steve is a street fighter and a tough competitor, which is why I wanted him on my side with Candie’s. Although he is a partner, I still like to try to beat him at golf.”

Meghan Boyd, buyer,
“Steve has the ability to bring a trend to market faster than anyone in his category. He can identify a trend, design a shoe, manufacture a run in his Long Island City, N.Y., factory and be testing it in his retail stores in less than a week. This gives him the unbelievable advantage of instant customer feedback and allows him to be first to market. He truly has a finger on the customer’s pulse. We’re very proud of our relationship with Steve Madden and are not at all surprised he’s achieved such a milestone of success in his career.”

Debbie King, VP & DMM for women’s shoes, Bloomingdale’s

“Steve does the best job of offering the young contemporary customer fashion at a price. He has consistently been able to show the latest trends faster than other vendors as he shows and manufactures shoes much closer to delivery time. [He] has a tremendous energy and passion about the Steve Madden brand and his customers. He has a great insight into what fashions and trends his customers are looking for.”

Bodo Loerke, co-owner, VP of sales & brand development, Rough Justice

“Steve Madden is a ‘shoe personality,’ and his name and creation changed the footwear world for the better. Many vendors are being inspired to deliver better product all the time, which is good for consumers and vendors. I wish him and his team many years of being a part of the shoe world.”

Liz Rodbell, EVP, Lord & Taylor

“Steven Madden, as a company, understands the customer and is passionate about being on trend at great values. The firm consistently identifies emerging trends and moves with lightning speed to maximize the trends. For example, this fall, they jumped on the Western trend with the Great and the Texic, which have been great performers.”


Scott Krasik, senior analyst, CL King & Associates
“The business worked almost from the start because of Steve’s vision of designing shoes and fast fashion for young women in the city. And at this point, it’s a much better company than it ever was because they have organizational structure: The CEO brings a level of fiscal responsibility to the business, and Steve himself cares a lot more about [profitability] than just growing sales.”

Billy Lawson, owner, Shoe Inn, East Hampton, N.Y.

“Besides being a business associate, I know Steve on a personal level, and I really should probably call him a friend. [I remember] when he was selling shoes by himself in a hotel. ... He’s a guy who is full of excitement. When Steve had the Slinky, which was a hot shoe for him — an unbelievable shoe — I was in the showroom with him. We got in the elevator, and he said, ‘What am I going to do next?’ Now this is right in the heart of the Slinky, when he was doing millions of pairs, and his only concern was what was next. His focus was amazing. It wasn’t the Slinky or ‘Look how good I am.’ It was ‘What am I going to do next?’ And that probably offers some insight into what’s kept him around for so long.”

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