A cool and collected Madden dressed casual in light denim jeans, a long sleeve navy t-shirt and a black baseball cap with “Underdog” spelled out in bold white. Madden is far from an underdog in the fashion industry, and his recent acquisition of the Betsey Johnson brand only adds to his empire of footwear, accessories and apparel. Adding a touch of flair were Madden’s worn-in cowboy boots custom made by “some Armenian dude” in Hollywood who designs for Mötley Crüe, among other rock stars.
Before facing a crowd of fans, Madden kicked back in the green room for a round of media interviews. Keeping him company was a spread of snacks and refreshments, including a fruit plate, cheese and crackers, brownies, trail mix, red vines and the ever-important Mike & Ike candies. After stealing a few red vines, I chatted with Madden about spring footwear trends, the design process, and the must-have shoe for the San Diego woman. Oh, and Madden also dished on why he isn't allowed to name the shoes.
Get to know Steve Madden, the man behind the brand.
Q: What are the hot footwear trends for spring?
A: I would say the thicker banded sandals are really cool, which is a little more of a bohemian look. We’ve sold a lot of thongs over the years, and we’re still selling them, but what’s coming in is the thick banded stuff.
Q: What about colors?
A: Ya, a lot of colors. We sell a lot of black, too. Fuchsia is cool, yellow is cool, blue is cool -- I love colors. We don’t sell a lot of color, but we are in the flat sandals.
Q: I need to know all about the shoes you’re wearing right now.
A: I had these made in LA by the guy who makes shoes for Mötley Crüe. He’s some Armenian dude in Hollywood. I gave him a favorite pair of my cowboy boots and he made them for me. I’m going back to LA tomorrow and I’m probably going to have him make me another pair. These are a little beat up, but I like when they get beat up.
Q: What is your favorite part of the design process?
A: This is, right here -- (points to our photographer, Arlene Ibarra, wearing Steve Madden shoes). Seeing someone like her wearing the shoes -- she looks so great in them. And that’s what it’s all about.
Q: Where does your inspiration come from?
A: Well, I’m inspired by paying the bills.
Q: Honesty, I like that. Was there any specific inspiration for your 2012 spring collection?
A: It’s always something. I saw these great colored jeans out there the past few years, and I thought to myself -- what are they going to wear with these types of jeans? I originally thought they would wear less color because of it, but they’re not.
Q: What is the perfect shoe for the San Diego woman?
A: It would be a shoe called the Achilees, and it’s in stores now. I think it’s really cool. It’s a strappy sandal, it comes in four or five colors metallic, black, natural. (pictured left)
Q: Where’d the name come from?
A: I don’t know, I didn’t name it. I used to name all the shoes, and I do name some. But mostly, they don’t let me, ‘cause I want to name them dirty names.
Q: What are your favorite Steve Madden men’s shoes to wear?
A: I wear this combat boot called the Troopah-- in fact I have to build up the heel on it. I’ve got to get my Troopah’s and take them to the shoemaker. I like to put a little more meat on the bottom.
Q: What are your plans for brand expansion? I hear you’ve been busy buying a few big companies.
A: We’re expanding -- growing and buying companies. But the most important thing we do is to make good shoes, cool shoes -- that’s what we do. That other stuff, it’s -- how can we deploy the money that we’ve made from our shoes into something interesting. We design shoes every day, and that’s what I think about.
Q: So what are some of these new brands you’ve acquired?
A: Well, Betsey Johnson. We made Betsey Johnson bags, and we got friendly with them. They were having some financial problems, so we came in and bought the company. She is a great designer and a great friend, so it’s been fun.
Q: Do you now have creative influence on the Betsey Johnson collections?
A: Absolutely not. I have enough trouble with my shoes. She’d kill me if I did that. If you’ve met Betsey, you know what I mean.
Q: Oh, so it’d be a very different marketing direction then?
A: Haha, ya absolutely.
To view the entire Steve Madden spring footwear collection online, visit stevemadden.com
To view the full gallery of Steve Madden Meet & Greet photos by Arlene Ibarra, visit pictures.discoversd.com
Discover more local fashion tips and trends in our San Diego shopping blog