Judges praised the brand’s “strong heritage”. Although Steve Madden was founded in New York in 1990, Mainassy tells Drapers the brand is “just getting started” with its expansion strategy after the retailer returned to the UK high street in 2019 after a 10-year hiatus with a 1,552 sq ft store in Westfield London in White City.
“We are extremely excited about it,” Mainassy tells Drapers. “Our plan is to look at an expansion roll-out in 2024 and look at opening three to five international stores next year.”
The UK remains one of the “focus markets”, and the brand is set to open a store on Oxford Street this summer.
Rosanna Mainassy started her career as a buyer for Dutch fashion retailer WE Fashion in August 2008. Originally from the Netherlands, Mainassy joined Steve Madden Europe as a junior buyer in November 2010, tempted by the offer of business trips to the footwear brand’s home city New York.
Mainassy progressed to the role of brand manager in 2012 and sales manager in 2016, before being promoted to her current role as product and sales director in 2020.
In her role, she oversees 14 direct reports and is responsible for Steve Madden’s wholesale key accounts, including negotiations, contracts, customer relations and selling results in the EMEA region.
Although originally a women’s footwear brand, Steve Madden is making strides with men’s products as well as handbags for women, which expanded into the European arm of the business in 2021 and are described by Mainassy as Steve Madden Europe’s “fastest-growing category”.
Retail prices range from £40 for a black slider sandal to £320 for a white heeled boot made from microsuede, a polyester-derived imitation of suede, with fake pearl detailing. Stockists include Next, Schuh, Kurt Geiger, House of Fraser, Selfridges, Flannels, Fenwick, Zalando, Asos, John Lewis and Harrods.
Mainassy lives in Utrecht with her husband and three children – aged eight, four and one – in what she describes as a “full household”.
Steve Madden SS23
What is the first thing you do in the morning?
I wish I could say yoga, but no: I’m jumping in the shower and hoping the kids will not wake up so I get my very rare, five minutes of me time.
If I am lucky, I will even have a nice cup of tea in the kitchen, enjoying those quiet minutes before it begins to get hectic.
What is your coffee (or tea) order?
Definitely tea: fresh ginger and mint is my favourite, but a green tea will always do.
I don’t ever drink coffee, believe it or not, I would get too bumped up to even focus. I am blessed with a healthy dose of natural energy that will get me through the day.
What was your first job and how did you start your career in fashion?
My first job was as a waitress at a lovely pancake restaurant in the small town of Groningen in northern Holland when I was 16. I loved the interaction with customers, and I guess that’s where my love for sales started.
When I was 19, I went to the Amsterdam Fashion Institute, where I studied fashion management. In the final year, we had to undertake an internship for six months, and I was accepted into a Dutch fashion retailer called WeFashion.
As an intern, I worked on the men’s smart fashion woven department, where all business shirts were developed. After two years working there, I was approached by a company who was looking for someone to help them set up a new US shoe brand they just got the licence for. This would involve travelling to New York. I was 23 years old and it sounded like the chance of a lifetime. Here we are almost 14 years later – look how far we have come.
Steve Madden SS23
What was your last fashion purchase?
My Prada sunglasses (right). I bought them at Berlin [Brandenburg] airport, on my way home from a successful meeting. The sun was finally shining bright after a very wet and windy few months, so that deserved some celebration – and what better way to celebrate than to treat yourself.
Do you prefer shopping online or in store?
In store. I like to feel the quality and try on the pieces I am interested in. My sustainable heart always feels guilty when big boxes arrive at my doorstep. Unfortunately, I do not always have the time to go to a physical store and this is a much easier option. I always try to choose the shipping option with the least environmental impact.
What tool or app makes your work easier?
Our BI-Tool [Business Intelligence Tool, exclusively designed for Steve Madden]. I could not live without it. This tool offers dashboards on a daily basis to track progress on sales and product performance, monitoring KPIs and key metrics, creating new opportunities, and refining overall efficiency. We are always looking at ways to make progress.
As Steve [Madden] says: not perfection, but progress!
What is the last book you read?
I downloaded Michelle Obama’s book [Becoming, published in 2018], but have not had a chance to read one page. So, honestly, the last book I read is a Dutch children’s book! I often come home after work pretty late, so the night time routine with my children means a lot. We read a book every night before they go the bed – each day one of the two can decide which book we read.
The new version of Steve Madden’s [autobiographical] release, The Cobbler: How I Disrupted an Industry, Fell From Grace, and Came Back Stronger Than Ever, is new on my list – although I know everything already.
I do love thrillers, especially from Scandinavian writers like Jo Nesbø and Samuel Bjørk. I can get lost in the pages, carried away by the tension and excitement of the crime-fiction it helps switch off from work completely.
Steve Madden SS23
Who in the fashion retail industry inspires you?
I get inspired by young fashion entrepreneurs who chase their dreams and build successful businesses. That can both be on a huge scale, like [the way] Miuccia Prada built her empire as a woman and a feminist, which was not always appreciated in those early years. Or Olivier Rousteing, who is the youngest and one of the first [luxury fashion] creative directors of colour within the fashion industry [at French luxury house Balmain].
Also on a smaller scale, new brand companies that are emerging, such as Daily Paper, which was founded by three friends with different cultural backgrounds and has a serious position within the fashion industry.
Which songs help you get through the day?
That depends on the day, but all from a soul-inspired background. I love the playlist Soul ‘n’ the City on Spotify, which gets updated weekly. This week I am really feeling Allen Stone’s song, Coming Home.
What are your thoughts on the current state of the footwear market?
After essentially three years of unexpected life changes because of the pandemic, consumers are now dealing with rising prices and tight budgets, and this is impacting consumer behaviour, causing it to be a challenging market.
More than ever, consumers are looking for a brand they can rely on, making brand loyalty a key element going forward.
This also offers opportunities where we chose to continue to invest in marketing, and making sure we are offering the right product at the right time. That, combined with our test-and-react strategy, where we are able to design and produce test cases [small batches of new designs] on a very short notice [with a lead time of a few days] in the [Steve Madden-owned] New York factory, gives us a head start on our competition. [If the small batch of products receive positive feedback from customers, the designs will be mass produced in larger Steve Madden factories in Mexico and Brazil.]
This has resulted in us currently having some of the most successful selling product within the EU fashion footwear market.
What one piece of advice would you give your younger self?
I thought about this question, and I would say: none. My younger self should make all the choices she did: the good and the bad, experience highs and lows learn, and get out stronger.