CULTURAL DIVIDE Fashion - Profile
Good Business PRESIDENT OF MICHAEL STARS, SUZANNE LERNER, PAYS IT FORWARD
along with husband created the Michael Stars Foundation 10 years ago. A petite powerhouse with a mass of long auburn waves, she’s no newcomer to the “give back” party. Through the Michael Stars Foundation, Lerner has leveraged the business’ success to support empowering and educating women, and fighting for political justice. She’s actively involved in the Joyful Heart Foundation, Children Mending Hearts and the Women’s Donor Network. Lerner sits on the board of directors for Prosperity Catalyst, a nonprofit organization that educates women in Haiti and Iraq on how to make candles as well as mentoring them on the business of selling them and growing a business. The Malibu store carries the tea candles Suzanne Lerner is rushing to catch a red-eye to Haiti, where
along with Soko jewelry, the stunning handcrafted pieces made
she, along with friend and actress Maria Bello, is headed to
with natural and recycled materials by artists in emerging
celebrate the first graduating class from the Academy for Peace
economies. One of Lerner’s favorite Haitian-based collections
and Justice, the Haitian school run by Artists for Peace and Justice,
is Simbi’s line of beautiful beaded bracelets with silver
so she has to cut short the list of things she’s passionate about.
charms — a portion of the sales go directly to supplying clean
The president and co-founder of Michael Stars is extremely
water to Haiti.
passionate about many things. Rebuilding Haiti is at the top of a
What else is on her list of passions?
list that includes empowering women and educating girls, equal
“Malibu! Malibu is our customer! It’s in our DNA. It’s the
justice for all and, of course, ultra luxurious cotton T-shirts!
whole Michael Stars lifestyle — easy, laid back, casual yet very
Lerner co-founded Michael Stars with her late husband,
luxurious,” Lerner says, her smile so wide it’s audible.
Michael Cohen, in 1989, and took over as president after
By the time she returns from the graduation, June gloom will
he passed away in 2015. By that time, what had started as a
have run its course. Summer — Malibu’s legendary high season
humble-enough undertaking spurred by the desire to create the
and Lerner’s favorite time of year — will be in its sunny stride.
perfect basic tee, evolved into a full-fledged casual luxury brand.
“I love Cross Creek. During the week, the store is laid back,
Despite the expansion of the brand’s fashion oeuvre — which
with locals coming in to replenish tees. And on weekends,
has recently added a men’s line with the same relaxed, luxurious
it’s crowded, very international and interesting. With her smile
feel and appeal as the women’s line — its ethos has remained
still audible she adds, “With a great vibe!”
true to the Southern California lifestyle and to Lerner’s lifelong
What she really wants to do at Cross Creek, though, now that
commitment to philanthropy.
the men’s side is up and happening, is open the store up to the
“The company is my vehicle to affect change. It’s my platform;
Malibu community to host events, either for local or global causes. Of course she does. She’s in the business of doing good. x
it allows me to be in the business of good,” says Lerner, who,
Ph oto g rap he d b y Brad Torch ia
W ri tte n b y An n ie S t e in