Life After Barneys: Mary Jo Pane and Michael Gabriel Take Manhattan

Miracle Icons Gets New Lease on Life in Michael Gabriel Showroom

Barneys may have been an institution, but — more immediately — served as a sales point for many independent as well as “big name” brands. Fortunately, designers are finding new ways of getting their products to market, including by creating — and even reviving — partnerships. So it is with MIRACLE ICONS owner Mary Jo Pane and multi-brand showroom owner Michael Gabriel.

Mary Jo and Michael met in 1989 when she was the buyer and manager of Nan Duskin in Baltimore, Maryland and he was Vice-President of Dianne B in New York City. At the time of their meeting, Michael and designer/retailer Dianne Benson were sponsoring “Love in the Time of AIDS” an extensive photo journalistic exhibition that depicted and promoted volunteerism in response to the then-rampant AIDS epidemic. The exhibit was displayed on the north-facing wall of the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York City.

Together the three of them decided to have a charity lunch and fashion show that would feature Dianne B clothing and all proceeds would go to Love in the Time of AIDS. Mary Jo was game from the get-go, but the deal sealer was that her favorite soap opera star, Nancy Pinkerton Peabody, famous for her portrayal of Dorian Lord in ONE LIFE TO LIVE, was the founder and spokesperson of the charity. Like Mary Jo, Nancy was a native of Omaha, Nebraska.

Photo: Kevin Sturman Photography

The show happened and it was a great success and as life would have it, shortly thereafter, both Mary Jo and Michael moved on in their careers.

Each of their careers could fill a volume in the annals of the fashion industry but the point of this story is a different one.

For this, we fast forward to Labor Day Weekend 2019, thirty years later. Mary Jo and Michael were to meet again at a rooftop Labor Day party that Mary Jo organized with a group of friends.

Through Facebook, the two had started chatting and reminiscing about the dinner and evening that followed the fashion show on that chilly October night in 1989. Having celebrated the success of the event, Mary Jo was accompanying Dianne and Michael to their hotel. On her car’s cassette player, Mary Jo was blasting the music they had used in the show. When Aretha Franklin’s version of “I Say a Little Prayer for You” came on, Michael stood up and with this head outside of the sunroof was singing along with Aretha. It was a memorable night. It was a chance chat on Facebook that brought them back together.

On the rooftop that day, the main topic of discussion was the imminent closure of Barneys New York.

the main topic of discussion was the imminent closure of Barneys

Mary Jo, who 19 years earlier, had begun designing and producing her own jewelry collection, MIRACLE ICONS, was very proud to claim Barneys as her number one customer.

As everyone sadly speculated about the imminent doom of the legendary store, Mary Jo mentioned to Michael that the closure of Barneys would take with it (among everything else) half of her business.

At some point in the course of the conversation, Michael invited Mary Jo to be his “artist-in residence” in his neo-nascent multi-brand showroom in Chelsea. In lieu of commission they bartered that Mary Jo would join as a team player and help Michael during the selling season, hence the playful use of the expression “artist-in-residence”.

Michael invited Mary Jo to be his “artist-in residence”

As fellow torch bearers of the glory days of fashion’s past, the two agreed and are currently planning and strategizing for New York Fashion Week and Fall-Winter 2020.

At a time of great uncertainly for the fashion industry itself, Mary Jo and Michael demonstrate their capacity to make the best out of a bad situation, finding the proverbial dark cloud with a silver lining. In fact, they are doing just that.


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