Malibu Mag Suzanne Lerner
Suzanne Lerner, president and co-founder of the Michael Stars clothing company, is passionate about T shirts. Tshirts, quality cotton, manufacturing in California, empowering women, educating girls, political justice and teaching women in third world countries to create and run their own businesses. Her list of passions is long indeed, but as she was about to catch a red-eye flight to Haiti with her friend, the actress and Malibu resident, Maria Bello, she had to cut it short! They are going to attend the graduation of the first graduating class from the Academy for Peace and Justice School in Haiti run by Artists for Peace and Justice, which they both support. (http://www.apjnow.org/) In addition to helping the people of Haiti rebuild a stronger, more egalitarian nation after the 2010 earthquake. As stated her list is long and runs deep.
The woman who still looks like her teenage self back in Chicago, with long auburn hair and blue eyes, who went on a hunger strike for civil rights, sat in for civil justice, and then travelled the world and lived in India for a year before settling in LA, is a powerhouse. She is also the quintessential California beach chick. Residing in Manhattan Beach for well over a decade, and owning a store in Cross Creek, she’s earned her title!
Watching the surfer girls work the waves out at Point Dume the other night, brought to mind the beach girl in Suzanne Lerner; strong, daring, fully present, focused and brave. That’s who she is. As a business woman, philanthropist, political activist, non-stop mover and doer, mentor and civic leader, not to mention good girl friend to many, she really is one of So Cal’s finest.
Suzanne cofounded Michael Stars with her late husband, Michael Cohen, in 1989, and took over as president after he passed away in 2015. In addition to owning a high profile brand and operating nine stores, she personally oversees and inspects every design, pattern and bolt of cloth it takes to sell luxury casual wear to over 1000 retail stores.
The idea she and Michael had back in the day was to create the perfect T-shirt. That grew with the times into a life style luxury brand of cozy cotton dresses, pants, shirts and cashmere sweaters. Running the company for her is so much more than a job. She says “it’s my platform, it allows me to be in the business of good.”
There is no separation between church and state with her. Through the Michael Stars Foundation, that she and Michael started ten years ago, she supports The Joyful Heart Foundation, Children Mending Hearts and The Women’s Donor Network. All these organizations aid in healing impoverished women and children, empowering them by teaching trades and business skills. Suzanne Lerner is the poster gal for the saying, “the more you give the more you get back.”
She’s excited about the Tea candles that just arrived in her store, made by Prosperity Catalyst, an NPO she’s on the board of, that teaches women in Haiti and Iraq to make and sell candles, (http://www.prosperitycatalyst.org/). They look and smell lovely and 50 % of the profits go back to the organization. She’s happy that the beautiful beaded bracelets with silver charms made by another Haitian craft company she supports, Simbi, (http://www.simbihaiti.com) are selling well because a portion of their sales goes to supplying clean water to Haiti.
Ask her how she feels about her Cross Creek store and her voice goes up several octaves. “I love the Malibu store! Malibu is our customer. Malibu is our DNA! Malibu is the quintessential life style of everything Michael Stars.” She then adds, “during the week the store is laid back, with locals coming in to replenish T’s. Weekends in the summer, it’s crowded, international and interesting.” She loves Cross Creek!
“And the men’s store is there now!” Excited and happy with the quality of fabric and super relaxed feel of her men’s line, her voice goes up another octave again! “What I really want to do at the Cross Creek store, though, is open it up to the community to host events, either for local or global causes.”
Of course she does. She’s “in the business of doing good.” Whether it’s in Haiti, New Orleans, or on Malibu Road.
It sure makes the feel of those Michael Stars T shirts even more luxurious, knowing how much good they are doing!