I recently finished The Cobbler: How I Disrupted an Industry, Fell From Grace, and Came Back Stronger Than Ever by Steve Madden. I ran across this book on a library shelf. I was familiar with the brand and owned some of the product but I had never thought of Steve Madden as a person. This book is Steve Madden’s life story. For the most part it is an interesting read and I would recommend it.
First off, I enjoyed the conversational tone of the book. The language was very direct and blunt. Madden is from New York and this book was written the way New Yorkers tend to talk. The author did not try to be deep, woke or intellectual. Reading this story was like talking to a person in a bar.
The Cobbler is fairly short but it touches on a few different subjects. I’ll start with what the book is not. The book is not primarily about fashion, design and trends. Those things are discussed but it’s not the focus of the book so if that’s what you’re looking for this book isn’t for you.
This book touches on family ties, addiction, business, a possible personality disorder the stock market, marriage, divorce, parenthood, incarceration and social injustices. There is a lot going on which can probably be said for all of our lives.
Steve Madden’s story starts in Long Island, NY with his mother, father and two brothers. He talks a bit about his family dynamic and childhood. In his teen years he begins his career as a retail sales person in, you guessed it. A shoe store. He expanded his career in the shoe business as a young adult as a designer, manufacturer and sales representative in New York City.
Steve started his shoe company with $1,100 in 1990. The company did relatively well but he knew the company couldn’t grow without additional cash flow. Steve had a childhood friend named Danny that lent him money to to take his company private. It was a part of a scheme to flip stocks.
Danny worked with a man named Jordan who inflated and sold stocks. The deal was that Steve had to sell his stocks after they were inflated. This deal was depicted in the Leonardo DiCaprio movie Wolves of Wall Street. Steve served about two and a half years for stock manipulation, money laundering and securities fraud.
Steve Madden’s incarceration is the most interesting part of the book. If you enjoy programs like Lockup or Locked Up Abroad you may enjoy The Cobbler. Steve describes prison life and some of the characters he might while locked up. Incarceration gave Steve an understanding of inequities in society and how racist and inhumane the American prison system is.
Steve employed several people that he met while he was incarcerated. He knew that he was fortunate to have a business to return to while other inmates had no opportunities. I really appreciate the author did not get sappy and all kumbaya (which is getting on my nerves) while discussing these matters. He was very matter of fact. Steve Madden supports a non profit organization that helps ex prisoners and homeless people.
Steve got engaged in prison which was cute. He married one of his employees that was with him since the early days of his company once he was released. After his incarceration Steve Madden returned to work and his company grew and became a global juggernaut.
This is an interesting book and inspiration can be gained from it in many different ways. It’s a short read and a little slow in parts but it picks up in the middle. There are heartwarming parts of the book as well as some laugh out loud moments. Overall, would recommend it if you have the time.
We are a few months away from a new year and decade. There’s an old adage that says that hindsight is 20/20. It’s a little ironic that I came to the conclusion that the early 2000s was the absolute worst decade for fashion in the history of mankind just before the year 2020. Sometimes it takes a while to come to terms with your past. Consider yourself fortunate if you were not born yet or were still too young to make your own sartorial decisions.
“Mean Girls” 2004
I saw a picture on Pinterest today of a red carpet event that took place in the early 2000s. The image brought back memories of my own terrible fashion choices from that time. We all looked a mess. We all looked a bit slutty, unfinished, sloppy, with big curls in our hair and heavy make up.
Me with blonde streaks in my hair and a suitor in 2003.
I don’t know who we should blame for the lost fashion decade at the turn of the century. Forever 21, Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera and Destiny’s Child can all shoulder a bit of the blame. The film “Mean Girls” did their part to bring about the Thotpacalypse. But most of the blame lays squarely at the feet of every day women that walked around with flared jeans, heels and bare mid drifts.
Who remembers when there use to be a thing called “going out tops”? Going out tops were available at such places as Forever 21, Wet Seal and Charlotte Russe. They cost between $5-$20. Sometimes you might even find one you like at a gas station or Walmart if you needed a new one after 10:00pm for an event you were attending.
Me at a Prince concert with a purple wig circa ’99-’00.
I remember when it all began. There came a time when young women in America and probably world wide could not buy clothes that met in the middle. The pants were all low-waisted and the shirts were all cropped. Even blouses that were intended for business casual wear were that way. If you had a job working in a bank or in a law office or something you had to find a way to modify the outfit as to not reveal your belly button. I relied on tank tops and blazers.
I was twenty five in 2000 so I followed the trends of the time when I was out socializing. I learned to cover my belly for church and work. I also became very conscious of keeping my underwear and butt crack covered. Butt cracks and exposed thongs were an epidemic in the early 2000s. We can blame Sisquo for that.
“Thong Song” 2000
Hindsight is 20/20 and I have come to the realization that the early 2000s were the dark ages of fashion. It was dreadful and I’m glad it’s over. Thank God Instagram hadn’t been invented yet.
note: The video on early 2000s fashion featured sunglasses with rhinestones. I loved that trend but I was not able to pursue that trend the way I wanted because I need prescription sunglasses. However, Isaac made those shades trendy in the 70s, the golden age of style and fashion.
“New Horizon” 1977
I learned about Ombre Manicures also known as Baby Boomer Manicures on Pinterest. I have been intrigued by them for a while now. I just love how they look. At first I didn’t even know what they were or how the look was accomplished. I wasn’t sure if I could get a Baby Boomer manicure on natural nails. I thought they might be press on nails that came out of a package like that.
I’m fairly frugal and wanted to see if I could do the manicure myself. I am pretty good at home manicures and I have some experience with using acrylic paints so I thought I could do it. I failed. Nail polish doesn’t blend the way acrylic and oil paint does.
I found a You Tube video on how to give yourself an Ombre Manicure but it looked messy and I think it would take several attempts before it came out right. When I factored in the time and cost of materials to give myself the manicure I decided it would be easier to go to a salon.
When I walked into the salon I asked if they knew how to do a Baby Boomer manicure and if it can be done on natural nails. They didn’t know what that was at first so I described it and they said “Oh Ombre Nails”. The nail technician filed my nails with that small, round, drill like filing tool that they have. She put some sort of a base on my nails. She dipped my fingers in pink powder. Then she dusted the tips of my nails with white powder and put a top coat over that.
I don’t think that the powder that was put on my nails will come off as simply as it is to remove nail polish. That will be a pain. I went through that with the gel nail polish trend from around 2011. What a racket! You have to go the the salon to get the polish removed so you end up just getting your nails done again and probably a pedicure and your eyebrows waxed too. It’s hard to jump off that train. But it looks like I’m going to board it again and ride a while.
During the gel nails wave I eventually had to scrape the polish off with a pair of scissors. I scraped the top layers of my nails off along with the polish and I just had to wait for them to grow back. But my nail polish rarely chipped off so there was a benefit to it. It just got to be expensive.
The nail tech filed my nails into the coffin shape which I’m not comfortable with. It’s hard to pick things up off of tables now and my nails just feel funny now. But overall I’m happy with my manicure. The next time I get my nails done I will ask for a darker pink powder. I wanted a subtle and natural look so I asked for a light pink but I think I would like a little more contrast. The manicure cost $45. I also got my eyebrows waxed for $10 and I left a tip of $6 or $8 I don’t quite remember. It was money well spent.
Today I was browsing target.com and I ran across a pair of gold toned, chunky, bamboo earrings. I was kind of floored to see them. I remember that style of earring being popular in the late 80s and early 90s. Big, bold, gold hoops were once only popular among Black and Hispanic women in urban areas. They were lampooned for it. Big hoops were thought of as ghetto, uncouth and too flashy to be chic. So are they still ghetto now that suburban soccer moms and hipsters will be wearing them?
I’ve seen this before. I grew up in the 80s and 90s outside of Detroit. The fashion industry has promoted styles within the last ten years that I remember inner city women and men wearing thirty years prior. Back then that style of dress would have made a person unemployable. So it’s interesting to see urban styles marketed as chic and trendy when the fashion industry is actually decades behind the trend.
I ran across this article a few years ago in Lucky magazine a few years ago.
Sorry but Zooey Deschanel is the last person I think of when I think of nail art. No celebrity comes to mind when I think about nail designs. The popularity of nail art has grass roots. Grass that sprung up in between slabs of concrete. Nail art has been a fashion staple across America’s big cities for decades. It was hood until Zooey Deschanel and Lucky magazine said it wasn’t.
I’m not one to get angry about cultural appropriation because I live in a multi cultural society and cultures rub off on each other. But it’s unfair the way that anything that is associated with Black Americans is looked down on but a White stylists or buyer copies an urban fashion, brings it to the White masses who think that it is something new and all of a sudden it’s a new trend and it’s origins are forgotten. Then people tell African Americans that we have no culture and some African Americas seem to agree and wait for the White mainstream stamp of approval.
We have culture but we often turn our noses down at it in order to assimilate into the dominant culture. Instead of Blacks passing it down to our own children another ethnic group ends up selling our culture back to a different generation of Black Americans. It’s honestly our own fault and we should know better by now. But we keep falling for the okey doke. This cycle also happens in music and the restaurant industry.
Black people need to appreciate their own creativity and originality. Stop joining in the chorus of folks labeling something as ghetto in order to fit in to polite society. Something is either tacky and uncouth across the board or it isn’t. The marketing is the difference. Black people should protect their culture and proudly claim it. Don’t wait for a White reality star to make you chic. Learn to market your own culture instead of complaining when someone else figures out a way to make a buck off of it.
I’m sure glad that I saved my gigantic Turkish link gold hoop earrings from the 90s.
Happy belated birthday to Naomi Campbell. The hardest working woman in fashion turned forty eight on May 22. Naomi is from the era of the super models and hasn’t slowed down since the 1990s. Naomi has challenged beauty standards in the fashion industry for decades and continues to do so as she nears fifty. Naomi Campbell has been a hero of mine for many years.
I remember the first time I ever saw Naomi Campbell. She was doing a seductive dance in Michael Jackson’s “Keep it in the Closet” video. She was an absolute sensation in my middle school suburban Detroit social circle at the time. Me and my young girlfriends were fascinated by this dark skinned exotic beauty and her waist length hair. There was some debate among us whether the hair was real or not. I was on team weave but it didn’t even matter. I loved that woman.
She was a stunning Black woman with African features. Her contemporaries were Linda Evangelista, Cindy Crawford, Christy Turlington and another favorite of mine Tyra Banks. There had been successful Black models before but none as dark and lovely as Naomi at that time.
Some of you may be unaware that lighter skinned, European featured beauty is highly favored in the world. Even in Black communities light skinned, straight haired looks are praised over dark skin and kinky hair. I had childhood experiences that involved me being teased for being dark. As an adult it’s been clear to me that most men prefer lighter, European women over African looking ones. So it meant a lot to me as a young girl coming of age to see someone with dark features in the limelight.
Other models from the super model era have either retired or play different roles in the fashion industry now. At forty eight years old Naomi is still working the runway better than anyone and I mean anyone. Young models of the day can’t match her stage presence. In April 2018 she was on the cover of “GQ” magazine. Ms. Campbell shows no signs of slowing down.
Naomi has a bad reputation. She’s been accused of abusive behavior and has served time for her crime. She paid her debt and hasn’t had any legal problems in years that I know of but I believe that Naomi is misunderstood. It’s hard for Black women to stand up for themselves without being seen as being combative or aggressive. Unfortunately, Black women, even tall and glamorous models are forced to defend and demand their worth themselves often in this world. The world doesn’t just give people of African descent respect we quite often have to demand it. I think Naomi may have just been demanding to get the respect she deserves.
Despite Naomi’s notorious temperament she seems very polite and gracious to me. She doesn’t seem to take her lot in life for granted and she has worked very hard for all she has. I also respect a person that is able to maintain long term friendships. Friendship is under appreciated in this world and Naomi is still friends with some of her modeling colleagues from the 90s like Cindy Crawford and Linda Evangelista. I respect and admire people that maintain long lasting friendships. She also has a long term relationship with P. Diddy that I find to be, well, intriguing.
Happy belated 48th birthday to Naomi Campbell. The diva, queen of the catwalk, hardest working woman in fashion, muse and one of my personal heroes and an inspiration to millions.
Last week supermodel and America’s Next Top Modelfinalist, Winnie Harlow a.k.a Chantelle answered questions from Bravo’s Andy Cohen that set off, I won’t say controversy but a bit of social media cattiness from former America’s Next Top Model contestants and fans. Winnie said that the show didn’t do anything to help her develop her career. Other former contestants and fans think she’s being ungrateful. But a few ANTM alumni agree with Winnie.
The first winner of America’s Next Top Model Adrianne Curry said years ago that the show didn’t do anything for her career. Other models from early seasons said that the show not only didn’t help them become successful but it was a hindrance to getting signed with an agency. Other former contestants on the show credit ANTM for giving them their start in the business and giving them a platform from which to speak.
I don’t have a problem with Winnie telling her story and giving her opinion on the matter. But I do take her words with a grain of salt. I watched her season of the show and she didn’t come across as a very likable character. There was an arrogance and sense of entitlement about her and she wasn’t well liked by other cast mates in the Top Model House.
It’s hard to gauge how effective ANTM is in launching careers because there aren’t many super star models anymore. Fashion magazines use actresses, reality show stars and the children of famous people in their ads. The models that don’t fit into those categories may be successful but they aren’t household names like the super models of the 80s and 90s.
I am a long time fan of America’s Next Top Model and while viewing each season I have questioned whether many of the girls could really go on and model. The contestants that are chosen are people that look good on TV but they don’t really look like people that you see walking in fashion shows or in fashion magazines. I don’t think that it matter much because each season thousands of hopefuls audition to fill fourteen spots on the show.
Tyra also uses the show as her own personal soap box. She has used the show as a platform to challenge beauty standards and she picks models accordingly. Yet, fashion models are overwhelmingly tall, thin, young and European. ANTM has featured contestants that speak well to Tyra’s beliefs but I’m not sure they are what the fashion industry is looking for.
Nonetheless, I have seen ANTM contestants acting on TV programs and in print ads. I follow many of the former contestants on Instagram and they seem to have entertainment careers. But I’ll admit it’s always hard to tell who is successful and who isn’t from Instagram pages.
I’m sure being on a show like America’s Next Top Model is a great learning and opportunity for young models especially in the social media age. But just like American Idol, The Voice and other talent finding competitions there are some contestants that are successful once their season is over and others that are never heard from again.
So it seems that being a contestant on ANTM is a lot like going to college. You show up with hopes and dreams for the future. Your experience in the program may give some valuable lessons that will help you achieve your goals but winning ANTM, American Idol, making it to the NFL or NBA draft does not in and of itself promise success. Often times people that struggle in the initial stages of their career become stars.
When you hear Jennifer Hudson’s powerful voice remember that she was an American Idol loser and she only got as far as she did in the competition because Randy Jackson saved her. Tom Brady wasn’t a top NFL draft pick and Michael Jordan didn’t make his school’s basketball tryouts one year. You just have to make the most of your opportunities and keep plugging away at your goals. I believe that people that don’t give up achieve a measure of success but stay humble because nothing is promised to anyone.