Susan Crank, the longtime chief executive officer and president of Anaheim, Calif.-based swimwear giant Lunada Bay Corp., died on Jan. 23 in Newport Beach, Calif., after battling cancer. She was 67.
Crank launched her apparel career with Ocean Pacific Swimwear Ltd. In 1987, she joined Lunada Bay as chairman of the board, president and chief executive officer, where she led the multimillion swimwear and activewear licensing company for almost 30 years.
Crank’s ability to lead with a strategic balance of creativity, business acumen and team spirit was key to the business’s survival in 2009, when she managed to grow the business with a conservative and creative game plan.
Barbara Brady, director of the International Swimwear/Activewear Market swim association, remembered Susan as “one of the smartest business people out there.” She received several industry accolades, including Environmentalist of the Year in 2000 from the Surf Industry Manufacturer’s Association.
Despite Crank’s individual achievements, she consistently credited her accomplishments to teamwork and those surrounding her. “I believe wholeheartedly in the fact that this company has got a heart and soul. It has a dedication to its product and its people,” she has said.
The Laguna Beach resident had a strong reputation with retailers as well. She had a knack for spotting trends and delivering products effectively by staying abreast with trend forecasting in addition to adopting the latest innovations in technology. “Susan is the swimwear queen, period,” said designer Mossimo Giannulli.
Crank was honored at the 2004 Otis College of Art and Design Scholarship Benefit and Fashion Show with the Creative Vision Award. Thereafter, she joined the Otis board of trustees as vice chairman. She also chaired the 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,” stated Otis president Bruce W. Ferguson.
Determined to make a difference, Crank called philanthropy “so important and critical” and maintained involvement over the decades with both environmental and children’s initiatives. She was an active member on a number of boards, including the Just Say No Foundation, American Apparel Manufacturers Association, Surf Industry Manufacturers Association Environmental Fund, and the International Swim and Active Market Association. Most recently, she served on the board of CommerceWest Bank in Newport Beach.
Rebecca Virtue, design director at Lunada Bay, remembered Crank as someone who greatly shaped her career as a designer: “Susan has paved the road for me and other women to be leaders in an industry dominated by men.”
Crank had an impact that went far beyond business. Those her knew her best said she had an ability to recognize and embolden those around her was perhaps her most adored and memorable quality. Senior vice president of Lunada Bay and Crank’s business partner for more than 35 years, Patricia Osmanson, reflected, “There are so many things in life for which I am truly grateful but only a few so precious. Susan P. Crank was one of a kind and irreplaceable.”
Fred Fucci and Chuck Pinkow, both vice presidents of sales at Lunada Bay, summed it up by saying, “Susan was an inspiration, a mentor, a role model and, most importantly, she was family to us. She will live on in our hearts forever.”
In lieu of flowers, memorial donations can be made in Crank’s honor to Furnishing Hope, a charity for wounded military.