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Gary Card: Unbox Industries, photography by Katie Bagley

Work / Product Design

Renowned set designer Gary Card embarks on his dream project of designing toys

It’s Nice That favourite, set designer Gary Card, has once again surprised us with his weird and wonderful imagination. The much-loved set designer, known for his colour-filled scenes for the likes of Comme Des Garcon, Liberty and Nick Knight, has just released a collection of toys, now available from Dover Street Market’s worldwide stores and Unbox Industries. “It has always been a dream of mine to design toys,” Gary tells It’s Nice That. “Ever since I was a kid, it was the only thing that I really wanted to do.”

For Gary, designing toys came as a natural progression from his established career in set design. “I still think of set design as a kind of toy design accept the toys are huge,” remarks Gary. “Toys are in my DNA and the toys I had as a child undoubtedly formed the aesthetic style that I’ve applied to my set design career.” Like many other 80s kids, Gary grew up alongside many beloved franchises like Ghostbusters, Beetlejuice, Star Trek, Batman and so on. These influences, whether in a series of glossy Christmas wrapping-like costumes for Mac Cosmetics or a giant Moomin made from cardboard for a Tim Walker shoot, are still highly traceable in Gary’s work today.

He recalls how he “truly fell in love” with the Toxic Crusaders as a child, a love that has endured still to this day. “The figures were so detailed and vivid, psychedelic even,” Gary comments. He still has these toys and sometimes, they even crop up in his Happy Breakfast plasticine collages. In a fateful turn of events that Gary can only describe as a “crazy fever dream come true”, the sculptor David Arshawsky who worked on all the Toxic Crusaders as well as Gary’s favourite Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, is now going to sculpt a new version of his mascot, Smudge.

And if this wasn’t coincidence enough, the story of how Gary came to be making toys is even more fortuitous. “The story of how I came to design toys is one of my life coming full circle,” adds Gary. “Dan, the head of the Europe division of a China-based toy company Unbox Industries, was actually the owner of the first comics shop I fell in love with when I was about nine years old.” In short, when Gary was young, his father would drive him to Portsmouth once a month for day trips. On these trips, Gary visited a small comics shop owned by a young man who was about 19 at the time. The young Gary developed a friendship with him, exchanging drawings for comics whenever he visited.

Approximately 20 years later, Dan contacted Gary on Instagram asking him whether he’d be interested in designing some toys and, lo and behold, when they met to discuss the project in London after all those years, they rediscovered each other as Dan revealed he used to run a comics shop in Portsmouth. Gary goes on to say: “I don’t believe in fate, particularly for something as trivial as making toys, but it really felt like our collaboration was meant to be.”

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Gary Card: Unbox Industries, photography by Katie Bagley

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Gary Card: Unbox Industries, photography by Katie Bagley

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Gary Card: Unbox Industries, photography by Katie Bagley

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Gary Card: Unbox Industries, photography by Katie Bagley

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Gary Card: Unbox Industries, photography by Katie Bagley

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Gary Card: Unbox Industries, photography by Katie Bagley