Steve Madden is not one to hold back.
The footwear founder spoke his piece on the United States tariff dispute with China during a special appearance at Advertising Week New York on Monday. Onstage with Quynh Mai, founder of marketing agency Moving Image & Content, Madden sat down for an intimate conversation about the fashion industry, his path to success and how times are changing in the digital world.
While Madden said he can get on board with certain new-age changes — the social media evolution, for example — he was vocal about his disapproval of President Donald Trump’s trade stance and how it can impact the footwear industry.
On the global marketplace, he said, “The world is so small today. Being able to open up to the world — it has saved us, frankly. That’s why these tariffs are such an awful idea. It’s so wrong-headed what they are doing. It’s just so wrong, and hopefully it will change.”
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Since March, when Trump announced sweeping steel and aluminum tariffs on imports from several countries — including China — the two major world powers have gone back and forth with threatened and enacted tariffs in a tit-for-tat situation. The latest round in the fight came last month when the U.S. firmed up plans to impose levies of 10 percent on $200 billion in Chinese goods. The tariff took effect on Sept. 24 and will rise to 25 percent at year’s end. China responded with levies on $60 billion worth of American products, including clothing, furniture and auto parts.
Matt Priest, president of Footwear Distributors & Retailers of America, told FN at the time that trade wars would adversely affect American businesses and consumers. “The president claimed that trade wars are easy to win, but what our industry has always known is coming true: Trade wars are costly, unnecessary and do harm to the American economy,” Priest explained, adding that the administration should show “real leadership and declare a cease-fire to this self-inflicted conflict.”
For Madden, the tariff dispute is dangerous.
He said, “[U.S.-China trade relations] have been so great for our country. It’s a beautiful thing, and it’s working and has worked in America for the last 25 years. Now they are trying to stop it. The world is very small now, and we can’t sustain ourselves.”
The way it stands, Madden added, is that free trade is allowing consumers to get affordable fashion while creating jobs and building businesses.
“Simultaneously, China is building up their middle class because they have their people working on Apple iPhones and Steve Madden shoes, and we are able to take our products and sell it to them,” he continued. “It’s fantastic.”
As a global brand, Steve Madden is paying close attention to what will happen as the company continues to be poised for sales growth in the second half of the year.