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Michael Stars Merges With Its Lerner et Cie Showroom

For years, the cofounder of the Michael Stars clothing company in Los Angeles owned a separate showroom business called Lerner et Cie, which represented the Michael Stars collection as well as other brands.

But after more than 30 years in the showroom business, Suzanne Lerner has decided to merge her showroom business with her Michael Stars business. The four Lerner et Cie showrooms dotted across the country will be changing their names to Michael Stars and representing only that line.

“Being a sales rep through the years has become more difficult,” Lerner said, noting she has been representing her Michael Stars line exclusively for the past year. “I have been focusing on Michael Stars, so I decided I might as well merge it.”

In the past, Lerner et Cie represented other lines too such asTrue Religion, Rich & Skinny, Koral and Laurie b. at its showrooms in Los Angeles, Dallas, Atlanta and New York.

But operating two businesses basically under the same roof was taking up too much time and effort. “I no longer have to cut two checks, fill out two tax returns and two Affordable Care Act plans,” Lerner said, noting she was operating two companies at the same time that basically had the same mission.

Lerner has been running Michael Stars for the past three years and became president of the apparel company in early 2015 after her husband, Michael Cohen, stepped down from that position and became the chairman of the board. The husband-and-wife team founded the company in 1986 basically as a T-shirt line with artsy graphics but grew it to become a lifestyle brand. About 75 percent of Michael Stars’ merchandise is made in the United States.

Cohen passed away in March 2015. Since then, Lerner has been running the company and ramping up to expand to new doors and e-commerce sites. The brand has been on Nordstrom.com for the past 15 months and now is in 10 Nordstrom doors as well as in Anthropologie stores.

Plans two years ago to open a new 2,000-square-foot store at 8547 Melrose Ave. in West Hollywood, Calif., were scrapped, and the very first Michael Stars store, which opened in Manhattan Beach, Calif., years ago was closed when the lease expired and the rent went up. Michael Stars now has a space within the Third Gallery store in Manhattan Beach.

“Retail is not easy right now,” said Lerner, whose company now has eight Michael Stars stores in California, Arizona and Georgia.