This past Tuesday, Steve Madden came to visit UF for a live interview with CollegeFashionista founder Amy Levin and an open floor Q&A session with students. Those in attendance were required to RSVP for the event.
Even with this RSVP, however, seating was not guaranteed, and a line began to form well before 4:45 p.m. By the time the doors opened at 5:30 p.m., a line of students and professors hoping for a seat in Norman Hall, Room 137 stretched down the main hallway and looped back around to the double-door entrance.
Those who arrived early enough to be admitted into the lecture hall were escorted to open seating, where each chair held a Steve Madden goodie bag with a branded note pad, whimsical lipstick, nail polish-shaped highlighters, an “I’m with Steve” T-shirt and a one-night-only voucher for $20 off a Steve Madden purchase at Dillard’s and a $10 Uber. This allowed the guests to get from UF’s campus to the Steve Madden Girls’ Night Out event that was held at Dillard’s at The Oaks Mall later that evening.
About 20 minutes late and sporting his signature Ray-Bans, Madden entered the room in true Hollywood fashion. However, this intimidating demeanor of fame was largely diminished by the candidness and self-deprecating humor that Madden brought to the interview. As he spoke about working in a women’s shoe store as a teen, Madden said he “instantly fell in love with lady's shoes” but quickly added it was “not in a pervy way."
When Levin asked him about career mistakes, he didn’t shy away from talking about his thirty-month stint in prison, shown in the movie “The Wolf of Wall Street.”
"When you're in prison, you're just trying to survive ... just trying to get stronger physically and mentally," Madden said.
Despite this difficult topic, he chose to take a positive approach to the matter. "I was able to bring some of that strength back into the business,” he said.
This strength, combined with his keen, visual eye for design, has allowed Madden to build his personal start-up into a fashion giant and household name.
"We set (trends) and we follow them; it's a dynamic thing," Madden said.
On what is in store for Steve Madden and his brand, Madden said the company intends to release more sneakers and menswear and expand manufacturing to new nations like the U.S. He also said a documentary is being filmed about the designer and company.
“We try to stay true, as a company of our size, to our DNA,” he said.