Steve Madden Sees Himself as the DJ Khaled of Shoes

We talk hits and flops ahead of the release of his feature-length documentary.

Footwear, Shoe, Cool, Skate shoe, Leg, Plimsoll shoe, Ankle, Sneakers, Sock, Human leg,
(Image credit: Getty Images)

One does not simply walk into Steven Madden HQ—at least not without being spun right round, baby. Up and down multiple floors of buyers, staffers, and cater-waiters serving shot glasses of tomato soup. Through brand-segregated rooms flanked by shelves of pearl-buckled, beefy-soled shoes. Past heaps of people and product, all held in orbit by one planetary force. *The* Steve Madden.

In advance of Maddman: The Steve Madden Story's digital release—a cozy bio-doc that unflinchingly addresses substance abuse, serving time, and yes, his "dorky" portrayal in the Wolf of Wall Street—we sat down with its eponymous subject for more of the same brawny candor he displays onscreen.

On If He Ever Wanted to Give Up:

"More now, actually. I suppose there were moments then, but really, now. I have this wonderful company, and I have these amazing people whom I taught the business, and they're better than me. The pupils are better than the teacher. And as the teacher and the builder, I have to figure out another way that I can add value to my company. So now, because I'm an entrepreneur, maybe there's nothing I can do anymore. Maybe I should just quit—I have thought that. But then I have incredible days where I feel valuable."

On What He Looks for When Building a Team That's Included His Doorman and Former (Fellow) Inmates:

"It's passion, work ethic, and knowing what's important—and the work ethic is the third of those three. It used to be first, but I've modified that, because I know certain people who work very hard but are dopey, but I give them points for working hard. I admire young people—they get certain things. But showing up is the most important thing. It's a combination of respecting their peers and respecting their elders but not in a false way, like 'Let me learn from this dude.' I don't have anybody left to learn from, because now, I'm the old guy. I used to be the young cat, and I used to learn from everybody. Now I'm the mentor. There's so much wisdom you get just by being around."

Blue-collar worker, Artisan, Tradesman, Carpenter, Art,

Madden at the Long Island shoe shop where it all began

(Image credit: Courtesy)

On Kim Kardashian as a Barometer of Wellness:

"I can actually tell my spiritual condition based on how I feel about Kim Kardashian. I can gauge it. I know I'm in a good place if I don't mind Kim that day."

On Loving and Identifying with DJ Khaled's "I'm the One":

"That little pop song? I loved it. It's not like Sgt. Pepper's or Mozart, but it's just such a great song. Very clever. That's what we're trying to do: 'I'm the One.' I have a feeling it's the same thing. Most of the time I would say [I know when a shoe will become a hit]. Sometimes it's a surprise, but most of the time, you know."

On Not Looking Back in Anger:

"I'm mostly angry that there's this bakery, Maison Kayser, they don't have rye bread. They have lemon rye. They won't make a regular rye bread! They have to make it with lemon, it's inedible! And that makes me angry. But other than that, I am so not angry, and I'm glad for all the bumps and humps I've had. I mean, I wish my brother was still here, but other than that, I have no regrets. Everything I did, I was able to learn from. I made a lot of mistakes—I'm not saying I didn't. It's just a waste of energy to regret anything."

Chelsea Peng
Assistant Editor

Chelsea Peng is a writer and editor who was formerly the assistant editor at She's also worked for The Strategist and Refinery29, and is a graduate of Northwestern University. On her tombstone, she would like a GIF of herself that's better than the one that already exists on the Internet and a free fro-yo machine. Besides frozen dairy products, she's into pirates, carbs, Balzac, and snacking so hard she has to go lie down.