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Suzanne Lerner is rushing to catch a red-eye to Haiti, where she, along with friend and actress Maria Bello, is headed to celebrate the first graduating class from ...
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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

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