Set designer Gary Card is full of surprises

In 2004, a small magazine run by the Student’s Union at Central Saint Martins called Less Common More Sense was edited by Matt Irwin. For a brief period of three issues, the magazine featured talents including Nicola Formicetti, Sophie Heawood and Gareth Pugh all before they embarked on successful fashion careers.


As it turned out however, Less Common More Sense was their big break and Dazed & Confused magazine hired the entire editorial team, wholesale.


One crew member, Gary Card, was working as a student counselor after graduating from theatre design in 2002 and joined the team as an illustrator. I met him at Olympic House in Dalston (London’s answer to the Chelsea Hotel) to discuss what happened next.


“It was a kind of a bratty magazine because we just ignored everything the student union was and decided we were going to make a cool fashion magazine.” Gary tells me thoughtfully.

He is dressed head to toe in purple, sitting on an ultra violet couch with a plum Pantone mug in his hands. The only thing missing is a bunch of purple grapes and a topless waiter to feed them to him.

“Incredibly, it was kind of taken seriously beyond its initial reach and started getting noticed by some quite well respected people.” After getting commissions from Alister Mackie for illustrations and set design work, Gary Card started working regularly at Dazed and i-D.  His first cover, Dazed & Confused’s 2008 July issue, was styled by Nicola Formicetti and guest edited by Vivienne Westwood.


Over a decade later, Gary has designed spaces for JW Anderson, Tim Walker, Kenzo, MSGM and Stella McCartney (the list goes on), but the thing that strikes me most about his work is its art school, DIY mentality. No matter how grandiose the job, Gary’s unaffected and sincere style is prevalent – whether he be working with his signature material; cardboard, or not.


“I love the philosophy that everything is attainable. I think it’s most obvious in my work with Charles Jeffrey When I met him for the first time it was my ambition to do a LOVERBOY style thing but on a grand scale. I don’t think that means the materiality needs to change and that’s also what I have always liked about Charles, he says you can do this too you can make all this out of bin bags you can do this.”

For the SS18 LOVERBOY show, their stand out collaboration, primary school panto figures crawled out from Gary’s imagination and onto the runway, creating a spirited backdrop in-keeping with Charles’ brand. These pink make-shift figures, held together by masking tape and blind faith proved once again that you don’t need a big budget or a big team to create something beautiful. (Es Devlin take note!)


Though they've flown him out to Dubai, New York and Seoul, Gary remains unbiased toward money jobs with big brands. “I love working for Dover Street Market because, providing we can build it in budget, they pretty much give me free rein and I get to do the wildest and biggest things. But working with smaller brands is great too and the best part of my job is being adaptable. You know you have to change your personality around your work so the stuff I have done for Cos is obviously very different from things like LNCC.”


When asked to recreate the LNCC store back in 2011, Gary was given total freedom by creative directors John Skelton and Dan Mitchell. “I always describe LNCC as having a kind of backwards futurism," Gary says. "We thought it would be cool to use backward, 2001 design ideas that were often made out of wood."

“For me personally, LNCC is probably my best and most well-known achievement. It was an adventure and we had never done anything like that; a permanent build in a multi sensory shop/ nightclub/ library with a budget of £30,000. It was insane.” Gary and his team were nominated for The Design Museum’s 2012 Design of the Year Award alongside The Duchess of Cambridge’s wedding dress and the Alexander McQueen Savage Beauty exhibition at the MET. “We were covered by the BBC and pretty much every magazine in the world.”


When he’s not redesigning contemporary East-London concept stores or catwalk curiosities, Gary’s an illustrator and spends most of his time on photoshop. I ask him how if that's what he'd rather be doing and he says,"I always wanted to be an illustrator.  I really tried to be an illustrator, I quit CMM and I said to everyone 'I am an illustrator now' and I lasted 4 months.” Well, after recently launching a line of hand painted Breakfast toys and tees available exclusively at DSM, maybe that's Gary's next chapter.

"I love the philosophy that everything is attainable" 

"Part of my job is being adaptable. You have to change your personality around your work"

"LNCC was an adventure and we had never done anything like that"