The Talk with Suzanne Lerner

Everyone of us must live as models to others.
Honored as a Woman of Vision by Gloria Steinem and the Ms. Foundation, Suzanne Lerner has been recognized many times over for her lifetime commitment and achievements in furthering the agenda and rights of women worldwide.  From creating that perfect tee we all love today in the fashion industry , to funding many non-profits and dedicating herself to advancing women in the world. It is with absolute pleasure I present to you my personal role mode,  Suzanne Lerner - the president of retail company Michael Stars, owner of leading women's contemporary showrooms, Lerner Et Cie and a philanthropist. Suzanne is passionate about giving back and it is evident through the Michael Stars Foundation which supports a variety of charities including Joyful Heart Foundation, Ms. Foundation, Children Mending Hearts and We Advance a non-profit co-founded by Maria Bello to advance the health and well-being of women in Haiti.

Juliet: Before Michael Stars you founded Lerner et Cie, leading women's contemporary showroom. How did you develop your interest in fashion ?

Suzanne: Fashion was not only something I enjoyed, but I also had an eye for it. I don’t know if I developed an interest in fashion as much as I did for women’s issues and activism, but fashion has created a platform for it.

Juliet: Michael Stars is known for raising the t-shirt in fashion status as well as in quality and price. Do you personally wear t-shirts? What is your style?

Suzanne: I’m typically in tees, athleisure bottoms or jeans, and sneakers or boots, but I like to mix in a great piece of jewelry and a fabulous bag. My style lends itself to the Michael Stars and Manhattan Beach lifestyle. Whether I’m in New York or London, I can throw on a blazer or leather jacket to complete the look and still be on trend.

Juliet: Michael Stars is a luxury lifestyle brand. As a Founder do you think it's important to follow and understand fashion trends? How do you stay up to date with fashion?

Suzanne: Business depends on following and staying ahead of the fashion trends. I stay up to date on everything from my traveling to visiting stores to home décor and art. I also follow fashion bloggers and luxury designers and peruse online. I’m constantly keeping my eye on the pulse of our customers to know what they want.

Juliet:  What motivates you? What is your creative process like?

Suzanne: My creativity process is explosive. My mind is constantly connecting and creating. I never really know when I’ll be inspired but traveling, interior design, and interactions with new people have a large influence.

Juliet: What do you think it means to be feminine in this day and age?

Suzanne: I think confidence and self-esteem define what it is to be a feminist. It’s how you speak and present yourself that represents who you are.

Juliet: How has living in India, France and Australia played a part in who you are today personally or professionally?

Suzanne:  One of the first countries I visited was France, which really fueled my desire to explore the rest of the world. There, I learned how to be comfortable in my own skin and I created lasting friendships. India had a big impact on me professionally as I learned the ins and outs of the garment industry.

Juliet: True to its name, Michael Stars dresses celebrities like Jessica Alba, Olivia Wilde, Sarah Jessica Parker, Maria Bello, Emmy Rossum, Elizabeth Banks and January Jones, among others. Who is / was your dream client?

Suzanne: We are always thrilled when a celebrity chooses to wear Michael Stars – they represent the brand so well with their unique and individual style. Aside from this group of A-listers, I am honored to have Gloria Steinem live in our tees. She’s always been a fan of Michael Stars.

Juliet: If you could change one thing in fashion what would it be?

Suzanne: If I could change one thing in fashion, it would be to ship product according to the season. We ship seasons in reverse – we ship sweaters in July and tanks in January. It’s a huge issue for me!

Juliet: What was the best advice you got ?

Suzanne: Michael always believed in working hard, but having fun too! It was the best advice he ever gave me.

Co-founder of Michael Stars, Michael Cohen founded the import-export fashion agency Bernstein & Cohen at the age of 21. In 1977 he moved to Lost Angeles where he would later meet co-founder Suzanne Lerner. Cohen approached Lerner about representing the brand and in 1986 the two of them launched Michael Stars. Two years later Cohen and Lerner were married. Michael passed away in March 2015.

Juliet Belkin in Santa Monica, wearing Michael Stars.
Photo: Lauri Levenfeld