Shoe designer Steve Madden speaks to students about self-made success


Photo Courtesy of Parker Waters

This Wednesday, shoe mogul Steve Madden visited campus in an event sponsored by Her Campus and the Albert Lepage Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation.

While walking in Steve Madden shoes may not be new to some students, taking a walk in Steve Madden’s shoes is another story. Attendees at Madden’s “Self Made” event on Wednesday got to do just that, hearing directly from Madden about his success in founding the eponymous footwear empire that has since expanded to include a wide array of handbags and accessories.

While Madden has dedicated his life to creating shoes and other accessories, he said he doesn’t believe all footwear was created equal.

“I would yell at my buyers if they bought a shoe that was backless, like a backless penny loafer,” Madden said. “Just buy the penny loafer. Don’t buy a backless penny loafer.”

The launch of Gucci’s fur-lined loafer – and the ensuing fashion world pandemonium – turned the slide shoe into the “it” style of 2015. When this proved to be a lasting trend, Madden’s perspective changed, though his feelings are in keeping with his vision for the brand: simple, with a twist. This aesthetic is perfectly embodied in the platform penny loafers Madden designed in the mid-’90s, which he feels are the shoe that describes him best.

It’s fitting that Madden led a discussion on being self-made, considering his unlikely origin story: he went from working at a shoe store at age 16 to founding a fast-growing brand that has weathered the in-store sales setbacks plaguing the retail industry with surprising ease.

Building such a successful business from just a $1,100 investment is no easy feat, but Madden credits his team for a great deal of his success.

“I picked the right people to come along on my journey with me,” Madden said. “… That’s why we’re here. You can’t do it by yourself.”

The discussion, moderated by Her Campus co-founder Windsor Hanger Western, was sponsored by Her Campus and The Albert Lepage Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation.

Initial talks to bring Madden’s “Self Made” campaign, which focuses on guiding and celebrating up-and-coming entrepreneurs, to campus took place between the national Her Campus team and Madden.

Tulane’s Her Campus chapter applied to host the event and was selected due to its performance and presence on campus, as well as Madden’s love for the city.

“I just liked the idea of New Orleans,” Madden said, “There’s so much history, and it’s so beautiful.”

In addition to the opportunity for attendees to gain entrepreneurship advice, the event offered another major perk – $50 Steve Madden gift cards for the first 50 attendees, as well as a $100 gift card which was raffled off at the end of the discussion.

2018 has been a big year for Madden. In addition to his “Self Made” initiative, he has several other big projects in the works, including a documentary chronicling the rise, fall and resurrection of Madden’s brand. “Maddman: The Steve Madden Story” is now available for streaming on Netflix.

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