If the name Paul Layzell sounds familiar, it’s because you might know him as one half of illustration and animation duo the Layzell Bros, the moniker him and his brother Matt have spent the last few years working under. Their skilful, funny, lighthearted style of storytelling has attracted clients like E4, i-D and Harvey Nichols, and even a quick look through their work will show you why. Whilst Paul and his brother still collaborate, recently he’s been working his own projects more and more, and has a number of exciting things in the pipeline.
Whether it’s 80s New York street culture in the vein of Keith Haring or the cartoons he grew up with, the crossover between Paul’s work and what he wears is clear without being self-conscious. We visited the Brighton graduate in his south London home-studio to talk about nostalgia, his hat collection and his theory on why everyone’s 90s-obsessed. From Nike to Space Jam, here he is unpicking the seams of what he wears when he’s hidden away in his studio, drawing into the early hours.
Can you tell me a little bit about what you do?
I mostly direct animations, so working as an animation director is what I mostly do but I come from an illustration background so I also do that, like murals or live illustration. My bread and butter is the animation. I’ve done some advertising and I’m trying to get into making cartoons as well which is a lot of what I’m doing at the moment. I work with my brother on stuff, which hasn’t stopped but the dynamic has kind of changed ‘cause he’s moved to LA now and he’s got a full time job out there, so we still work together and come up with ideas.
How different is directing animations to your illustration work?
They’re normally bigger projects. Obviously this isn’t the case with all illustration projects but they tend to be one-day kind of things, or a few days, or a week whereas with animation it’s a bigger project and it’s also a lot more of a team effort and you’re working with a lot of other people. Working with all sorts really: illustrators, voice directors, actors… full projects with producers.
What are you wearing today?
I’m not wearing the full thing but I thought I’d wear my Space Jam collection. I’ve got a few items of clothes from all over the place which are to do with the film Space Jam, which I thought was relevant because it’s an animated film but it’s also about basketball and that’s another love of mine. I love playing basketball. It kind of reflects my childhood and a lot of my influences from then like American cartoons.
How does what you do influence your style?
Maybe the colours. I guess it’s kind of different for [other] artists where it kind of helps to have a look or a style. That that mostly comes across in your work but it makes sense if comes across in what you wear. Maybe it’s not a conscious thing but I think you meet people and you’ve seen their work and you can kind of connect the dots. I do think that kind of helps, just people getting you and knowing what you’re about. With some people it’s really more of a thing. It’s something I don’t really think about on a daily basis but I know what you wear does represent you and giving it a bit of consideration probably doesn’t hurt.
I don’t really wear a lot of smart clothes partly because I don’t really think they suit me but equally because I don’t have to. I sound like a bit of an old man but I like stuff that’s comfortable.
“In the 90s there was this big thing about 70s stuff and basically it’s because whoever’s in their 20s are influential in fashion and what’s hip.”
Are there any other influences that feed into how you dress?
Yeah I think just stuff I grew up with, 90s stuff, sports stuff, skateboarding, cartoons. I’ve got some Keith Haring stuff – I like his work. Like a stereotypical teenager I used to skateboard, play basketball. I kind of stopped skateboarding ‘cause I wasn’t very good. I still wear a lot of skating stuff though and it can take getting fucked up, so it’s long-lasting. You’re spending all day sitting down, hunched over so I feel like I need to let loose some energy. If I didn’t have that I’d go a bit crazy. I like stuff I can move in; comfortable but practical.
What’s an average day for you?
It depends where I’m working from. I feel like I’m one of those people who works better at night. A lot of it is just drawing, drawing, drawing, drawing which takes up a lot of time. But I don’t always do the animation itself, I also do directing which is a lot more varied and can be anything from editing stuff, storyboarding, writing scripts, maybe making some music. I did a video for i-D which was all about 90s slang. It really varies depending on what I’m doing.
Why do you think we all fetishise the 90s so much?
I’ve got this theory. In the 90s there was this big thing about 70s stuff and basically it’s because whoever’s in their 20s are influential in fashion and what’s hip. So whenever that generation moves into their 20s, whatever was going on during their childhood has a resurgence.
Has your style changed much over the years?
Maybe, I’m still kind of young I guess. I probably went through an embarrassing phase as a teenager like everyone else did. I went through a skinny jean phase definitely.
Do you have any favourite items of clothing?
Well this Space Jam stuff is kind of important to me, just because I kind of like that they’re not so readily available. I feel like they’re mine and they have some kind of symbolic value.
Where did you get them from?
I can’t even remember. It will be some second-hand place.
Do you like to get a lot of your clothes from second-hand places?
Yeah. I used to live in Brighton which is kind of like a Mecca for all that, and you could get everything relatively cheaply. Here, less so. I kind of feel like it’s eking out a little bit and now it’s more expensive and you pay a lot for a piece of shit. I maybe buy more new clothes now.
Are there any brands in particular you like?
Yeah, I wear a lot of Nike. I like their design, it’s that nice balance of practical and minimal that looks good.
I hear you have quite a lot of hats.
I do have quite a lot of hats but I’d like to have more hats. Hats are a big thing, I wear them a lot. I think I always have done. I think maybe if you asked friends to name one thing I always wear, it would be a hat.
What kind of hats do you like to wear and where do you get them from?
All over the place. Some I bought new but all of them have kind of a story behind them, not big stories but little ones. I’ve got one hat which is orange and black with black pinstripes and I like it because it kind of reminds me of a basketball. That was my grandad’s, so that reminds me of him. I’ve got one that a friend gave me from America, this weird old school hat with a Mickey Mouse on it.
“I feel like a lot of what people do is in some way informed by their childhood and that will never really change.”
If you weren’t doing what you do, would you dress differently?
I think so. I’d probably want people to take me a bit more seriously, but I guess for now I can keep wearing kid’s clothes.
Asides from Space Jam what other cartoons are you into?
I used to like Space Ghost, all the Cartoon Network stuff, Transformers, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, a lot of Japanese stuff like Dragon Ball Z.
Does music you like factor into what you wear?
A lot of hip-hop stuff, less in a conscious way but I think that’s in there. All the 90s hip-hop, early 2000s.
Do you think your style will change much as you get older?
I think it will change definitely, but I definitely think where it comes from will be the same. I feel like a lot of what people do is in some way informed by their childhood and that will never really change. Maybe the style will change or the execution will change, but where it stems from, maybe not.