Obituary: Lunada Bay Chief Susan Crank

Susan Crank, the chief executive officer, president and chairman of the board for Lunada Bay, died on Jan. 23 after battling cancer. She was 67.

Crank had held the top spot at the Anaheim, Calif.–based swim and activewear company since 1987 after working in sales at Ocean Pacific Swimwear Ltd. Lunada Bay currently produces swimwear under the lines Becca by Rebecca Virtue, Becca Etc by Rebecca Virtue, Isabella Rose and Alé by Alessandra, the swim line by model Alessandra Ambrosio. Over the years, the company has produced swimwear for some of the industry’s best-known brands—including OP, Anne Cole, Cole of California, Catalina and Mossimo—as well as the swim collections of ready-to-wear labels such as Betsey Johnson and Lucky Brand.

Swim executive Gary Mykles first met Crank at Ocean Pacific, where he was the executive vice president. He recalled her start as a road rep for juniors swim and subsequent rise to sales manager.

“She skyrocketed from there,” Mykles said. “She was a natural. She did a fabulous job for the company.”

Mykles, who currently works with Quebec-based SGS Sports Inc.—which produces the Body Glove, Skye and Eidon swim collections—described Crank as “a real pro.”

“She knew the business and how to run her business,” he said. “The success of Lunada Bay is proof of it. She was one of those exceptional people.”

Under Crank’s leadership, Lunada Bay launched the Mossimo swim line and produced it for nearly two decades. Mossimo Giannulli, founder and designer of his namesake brand, described Crank as “the swimwear queen, period,” in a company statement.

In 2000, Crank tapped Lunada Bay in-house designer Rebecca Virtue to create the company’s own brand, Becca by Rebecca Virtue. In 2012, the brand expanded to include the plus-size Becca Etc by Rebecca Virtue.

“Susan has paved the road for me and other women to be leaders in an industry dominated by men,” said Virtue, who serves as Lunada Bay design director.

Designer Anna Kenney worked for Crank at Lunada Bay early in her career, when she launched the swim line Girlstar, Gotcha’s juniors brand.

“It was a great place to work,” Kenney said. “Susan took care of absolutely everyone. Susan was a mentor to all. She would take all of us to these women’s business luncheons. She lifted us all up. She wanted everyone to go beyond what they could do. She was very inspirational.”

Kenney recalled going on her first design research trip to Paris with Crank and Virtue. The trip fell on Kenney’s birthday and Crank bought her a business suit—her first, Kenney said.

“We learned everything at Lunada Bay. Not just about design but about presentations and introductions and life. That was what was so special about Susan. She had so much to give to everyone to make everyone excel in their life. Even now, 20 years later, I feel I’m a mentor to the assistants that I work with. I always tell them you have to work in Lunada Bay if you’re going to be in the swim industry. You’re really a swimwear veteran if you worked under Susan Crank.”

Nat Norfleet worked with Crank at Ocean Pacific and continued to work with her when she left OP to join Lunada Bay.

“She was the star of the licensing group at OP,” recalled Norfleet, who now runs a consulting business that currently works with the menswear line for the Margaritaville Apparel Group in Los Angeles. Norfleet said Lunada Bay is “one of the best swimwear firms Southern California has ever had.”

“It’s a heck of a company,” he said. “They know the surf and swimwear business inside and out. She was tough in the sense that she knew what she wanted and how to do it—and she was usually right.”

Ilse Metchek, president of the California Fashion Association, described Crank as “a caring, caring soul.”

Lunada Bay was a CFA member since its inception, Metchek said, adding that Crank was an adamant supporter of made-in-America production.

“Not just for the manufacturing, it was about her employees. She cared so much for the employees. And it translated into success. She showed that you could do that and be successful.”

Lunada Bay Senior Vice President Patricia “Oz” Osmanson worked alongside Crank as her business partner for more than 35 years.

“There are so many things in life for which I am truly grateful but only a few so precious,” she said in a company statement. “Susan P. Crank was one-of-a-kind and irreplaceable.”

In 2004, Crank received the Creative Vision Award from the Otis College of Art & Design at the design school’s annual scholarship and benefit fashion show. Crank was on Otis’ board of trustees as the group’s vice chair. She also chaired its audit committee and served on the finance, investment and executive committees. “She was a strong advocate for the college and our mission, and we will miss her greatly,” said Otis President Bruce W. Ferguson in a Lunada Bay statement.

Rosemary Brantley, the former fashion chair of the Otis College of Art and Design, remembered Crank as “one of the feistiest, go-getting trustee members that there was. I would say her No. 1 cause was helping students. That was her mission.”

Brantley said last year, when the design school was raising money for the Bob Hurley endowed scholarship, Crank was an invaluable help.

“Susan Crank was really instrumental in helping us because she knew all those people in the surf industry,” Brantley said. “She was just the best.”

Brantley also praised Crank’s facility for recognizing and nurturing talent, like she did with designer Virtue, who was an Otis graduate.

“Anytime I see someone like Susan who’s able to keep one designer so loyally for so many years, it is a tribute to what a great boss she must be,” Brantley said.

Crank also served on the boards of the Just Say No Foundation, the American Apparel Manufacturers Association, the Surf Industry Manufacturers Association’s Environmental Fund, the International Swim and Activewear Market Association and the CommerceWest Bank in Newport Beach, Calif. In recent years, she became involved with Women Helping Women, a nonprofit organization that assists unemployed and underemployed men and women.

In lieu of flowers, the company is requesting that donations be made in Crank’s name to Furnishing Hope (www.furnishinghope.org), a Santa Ana, Calif.–based organization that helps severely wounded veterans “[transition] from the hospital to civilian life.”