Steve Madden Gets Candid About Prison, Iggy Azalea & the Internet

Steve Madden is known for his frank commentary on everything from music and fashion trends to politics, and the designer didn’t disappoint at the 2015 FN CEO Summit.

In a conversation with Global News Director Katie Abel, Madden recalled some of the high points of his career — one of which was selling his first pair of shoes in his Soho store — as well as the lows. Topping that list was his brief sojourn in prison for securities fraud.

“Life is this journey and adventure where you learn and experience and grow up,” he told a packed audience at the CEO Summit in Miami. “I don’t miss prison, but I got a lot from it. I’ve become a better man and more patient.”

Madden’s patience was tested earlier this year when the brand’s collaboration with Iggy Azalea led to a Twitter battle, but he noted that he learned from that experience, too.

Steve Madden
Madden on stage during the 2015 FN CEO Summit with FN’s Katie Abel.
CREDIT: Jim Hobart

“There’s got to be a feeling between you. It has to make sense,” he said of finding the right partner. He recalled how he once pursued a partnership with Mark Wahlberg but eventually gave up when the actor wouldn’t meet for coffee.

As for his company’s many other deals and acquisitions, Madden admitted he leaves much of that in the hands of his CEO, Ed Rosenfeld — for good reason. “I was the worst CEO in the history of the shoe business,” he said. “I never read a financial report, and I was a little tyrannical. I’m so grateful for Ed.”

In his conversation with FN, Madden made a few more surprising revelations, including that he’s not a fan of the Internet, he’s never been to China and he’s no good at the luxury business. Nevertheless, he told the crowd of shoe execs that he’s looking forward to infusing a little of the Madden mojo into the Brian Atwood label, in which his company has a stake.

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