In an era where seemingly everything is mined for inspiration—or, let’s be frank, appropriation—what does it take to be truly one of a kind? A willingness to break the rules is essential; a strong sense of personal style certainly doesn't hurt; but most of all, you need to have a truly meaningful point of view. At W we are all about celebrating originality, which is why we’ve rounded up some of our favorite people who are constantly pushing boundaries, and asked them to share valuable insights. They may be just starting out or in the prime of their careers, but they are all leading the conversation in their chosen fields—whether it’s fashion, art, film, music, photography, or even skateboarding. The bottom line is that, regardless of their differences, they all share one very important trait: for them, standing out, rather than blending in, is not an option but a necessity.
Gary Card is a set designer renowned in the fashion industry for his fantastical creations—often made out of cardboard—and work with Nicola Formichetti, Tim Walker, and Rei Kawakubo.
You got started as one of fashion’s most prominent set designers by sending the stylist Nicola Formichetti a message on Myspace in the mid-noughties. If you hadn’t, what do you think you’d be doing instead?
I would have figured out a way. I was determined, and the timing was right. Still, I was absolutely delighted when Nicola messaged me back. He kept me busy for a couple of years, and I couldn’t believe the stuff I was getting away with when I first started out.
Do you remember your Myspace name at the time?
Everybody had a kind of club-kid name, but I’ve always been Gary Card. I didn’t ever need a pseudonym, because my name was already so ridiculous that it just fit. To this day, people still think that it’s made-up.
How soon after that would you say you had your creative breakthrough?
My first proper job job was a Uniqlo campaign with Nicola. We flew to New York, and it felt like the first time my stuff was legit. But really, everything that I did for Dazed & Confused was a breakthrough. I started off making their graphic-design pages and illustrating, and then that evolved into doing more on shoots with Nicola, like this collaboration with Dover Street Market. I made a Christmas installation that ended up becoming Comme des Garçons’ Christmas window. It was intense trying to keep up with it all because I was too young and too poor to afford a studio at the time, so I built all of the sets in my flat. My lungs are in a terrible state now because I used to spray all of these set pieces in my living room.
Who has inspired you over the years?
The artist Paul McCarthy—he’s the nucleus of a lot of what I want to make and always have wanted to make since I was very young. And then there’s Prince. I would love to make official stuff for the Prince estate, like his posthumous album covers, one day.
What’s the trickiest material that you’ve ever worked with?
Anything inflatable. It’s quite tricky, but I always go back to inflatables because they are so much fun, whether it’s a gigantic bouncy castle I made with Tim Walker for W or the latex headpieces I made for Comme des Garçons.
How did wearing purple become your signature?
I’ve always been obsessed with purple. I’ve worn it since I was a kid, and then it almost became a signature when I started my career. People would be disappointed if I didn’t wear it, so I started to feel pressure to fulfill everybody’s purple fantasies through me.
Is your home purple too?
I try to keep it to a minimum because my partner hates purple. So I try to keep my obsession to the studio.
What was your style like as a teenager?
Mostly neon. I was already head to toe in purple, with neon bits all over me. All of the neon stuff would be in charity shops and bargain bins, since nobody else wanted it. It was always pretty cost-effective to dress in the brightest, most neon colors.
What’s the most prized possession in your closet?
Now that I’m grown up, probably my Issey Miyake suits. Every once in a while I treat myself to one, and I love them desperately. Right now I have one in black, oxblood, and blue. No purple—yet.