Julia Neill

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  • Social media is the new street 

    Youth culture is a product of the society it exists within. Throughout history each generation has been made up of people who were born and came of age at the same point in history, sharing similar experiences and gravitating towards similar attitudes, resulting in the formation of iconic subcultural youth movements with strong collective ideologies and visual identities.

    Today’s young people are the first to be born into the age of the Internet and social media, and its impact extends beyond the way we communicate, shaping the very fabric of identity of a generation that has never known what it’s like to live predominantly in analogue  In fact, the very notion of being disconnected from the Internet (and by extension their friends, groups and connections) fills many young people with anxiety.

    The current youth generation still needs to satisfy the primal human urge to belong, but must now do so in two worlds - online and offline - each with different rules, codes and social conventions to follow in order to fit in.  The social pressures that are familiar to previous generations are added to and amplified by the need to manage multiple identities across multiple platforms and define who they are in an entirely new space where precedents are only now being set.

    This research seeks to establish whether today’s youth generation will look to physical objects and fashions as subcultural symbols that represent their views and group affiliations in the same way that the iconic post-war tribes did; the impact of social media on how tribes are formed; and the authenticity of online identities.

    It explores attitudes towards symbolism and iconography to understand whether the tribes and subcultural groups that do exist among today’s youth generation will be as visually identifiable through objects as the iconic tribes of the post-war period, and which icons symbolise today’s groups.

    My starting position

    My background in fashion design and trend development for youth-centric brand Urban Outfitters and subsequent study of jewellery design and silversmithing led me to examine the symbolism associated with subcultures like punk, and whether it can exist among today’s hyperconnected young people.  On speaking with a number of philosophers, cultural commentators and young people through interviews and focus groups, it became clear that to focus so specifically on the symbols that could be the outputs of today’s youth movements risked overlooking the significant cultural impact that social media is having and will continue to have on young people and the development of their individual identities.

    As such, my thesis expanded to cover the conditions that are causing the rise of neo-individualism and how the combination of social media with wider societal factors spells the end of the type of iconic subcultural youth movement that characterises so much of the post-war period.

  • Previous degrees

  • MA Fashion, Royal College of Art, 2007; BA Fashion and Textiles with Business, University of Brighton, 2005
  • Experiences

  • Fashion design consultant, The Modist, London, 2017; Fashion design consultant, Yoox- Net- a Porter, London, 2015-16; Head of Design (Womenswear) Urban Outfitters Europe, London, 2013-15; Senior Designer, Allsaints, London, 2009-13; Knitwear designer, James Long, London, 2007-09; Knitwear designer, Matthew Williamson, London, 2007-8
  • Awards

  • Goldsmiths Craft & Design Awards 2017 (GEM-A) Diamond award
Royal College of Art Royal College
of Art Graduate

25 June –
5 July 2015

Royal College
of Art Graduate