The Critical Life Lesson Steve Madden Wants You to Learn From His Documentary

Steve Madden Ben Patterson
Steve Madden (L) and director Ben Patterson at the New York premiere of his documentary.
Rex Shutterstock

After 27 years of convincing you to fill your closet with his ever-popular fashion footwear, designer Steve Madden is hoping he can persuade you to do something else: Believe in second chances.

The shoe mogul was on hand at the iPic Theater Thursday night for the New York premiere of his documentary “Maddman: The Steve Madden Story.” Directed by Ben Patterson, the film chronicles Madden’s early life and the tumultuous (nearly) three decades — and counting — he has spent as the creative force behind his multibillion-dollar eponymous firm. Madden’s drug addiction, marriage to and divorce from his company’s first employee, Wendy Ballew, and two-year stint in prison for securities fraud and money laundering make for a compelling tale that is sure to create new context for shoe lovers who have donned the designer’s popular wares for years without knowing his story.

Steve madden Steve Madden in New York at the premiere of his documentary. Rex Shutterstock

But Madden is hoping the film sends a very specific message to a certain kind of viewer.

“There are some people in my mind that I’m hoping this film reaches — I have a prototype of a person,” Madden told Footwear News when the publication caught up with him ahead of Thursday’s premiere. “They’re like 25-year-old guys — could be women, too — who are idiots and are on the wrong track in their life and people are giving up on them. I’ve seen people give up because people give up on [them] and it makes [them] give up, too. It’s about second chances — don’t quit before the miracle because life is very difficult. It can be wonderful, but it can also be [tough], and you have to be able to deal with that.”

Seven years in the making, the film — available for rental and purchase on Amazon and iTunes today — features cameos from fashion industry veterans and editors including Lord & Taylor president Liz Rodbell and FN editor-in-chief Michael Atmore.

“It’s out now, but it was really supposed to be out a while ago — it just took forever to make,” Madden said of the project, noting that his portrayal in the Academy Award-nominated film “The Wolf of Wall Street” in 2013 was among the factors motivating him to tell his own story. “There were two thoughts behind getting [my documentary] out: ‘Wolf of Wall Street’ happened, and I wanted to get my story out while I could remember it.”