I arrived early to the Michigan theater- nearly a full two hours before the event began- expecting the interest generated by this one of a kind experience to be more than overwhelming. It was the premier of the Steve Madden documentary, “Maddman: the Steve Madden Story” by Ben Patterson featuring a live Q&A from the man himself after the movie was over. Thankfully my friend and I got a spot near the front of the line, but as the line slowly grew and the drizzly rainy day chilled even further you could feel the sense of excitement mounting in the hubbub of the crowd outside. I had been a long-time wearer of Madden’s shoes, coincidentally having thrown on a pair that very morning without realizing the connection. Knowing next to nothing about the company or the man behind the company I was very excited to learn exactly how that well-loved pair of black “troopa” boots on my feet came into being.
Finally, it was time to file into the theater, walking by a mini photo op area where individuals dressed far better than I were taking photos, already making the event seem like the fashionable and flashy movie premier that I had expected it to be. Generously, all attendees of the event receive free concessions (I picked some popcorn and a delicious mocha dark chocolate bar) along with a free goodie bag that featured a mug, a t shirt, stickers and much more. For a free event this was far more than I expected and a more than welcome first impression. The screening room had a capacity of 200, and by the time the event was ready to begin nearly every seat was full. A staff member told us to “pretend we were at sea world” and squeeze in so that no seat would be wasted
Finally the lights dimmed and the documentary began with snappy shots of the feet of New Yorkers as they bustled around the city. The documentary itself was nothing short of fantastic. I thought the director did an extremely good job of capturing both elements of Steve’s life and career, and also the frenzied kinetic energy of the office. Steve’s story progressed naturally, one event flowing to another while weaving the overarching story of a dedicated and passionate man becoming the textbook example of “rags to richtes” through hard work and creativity. They discussed sensitive topics, like Steve’s time in prison due to being caught up in the money laundering scheme made famous by “Wolf of Wall Street,” with special care, while also maintaining focus on Steve’s dedication for his company and forward momentum. I remember laughing out loud at more than one occasion and grinning from ear to ear by the time the movie was over.
Last but not least, it was time for the Q&A. Even from sitting near the back of the room, you could get a feel for Steve Madden’s natural charisma and force of personality. He managed to exude an air of confidence without seeming haughty or arrogant, and seemed to earnestly answer all of the questions presented to him, even the less than comfortable ones about his time in prison. I particularly liked that when asked why he chose Ann Arbor to premier the movie about his life story, he brought up that many people he know and a large number of people who work from his company were Umich alums themselves, and that the school had a special place in his company. While the event was a once-in-a-lifetime experience I highly recommend the documentary to anyone interested in business, fashion or just an inspiring story of hard work and dedication.