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Marin fashion designer Simon Ungless on his new chapter with Angelina Jolie

  • December 29, 2023

Simon Ungless, former chair of the Academy of Art University fashion department, silk-screens a jacket at his home studio in Larkspur on Dec. 12.

Photo: Lea Suzuki/The Chronicle

On the deck of his tree-shaded home in Larkspur, Simon Ungless scraped black ink through a silk printing screen onto a white coat. The designer, clad in a splatter-pattern hoodie and camouflage pants, made for a striking juxtaposition as he executed his punk-tinged art form amid the tranquility of Marin.

“The whole point of this print is that it looks run over,” said Ungless, the former director of the School of Fashion at the Academy of Art University in San Francisco. His English accent lilted as the description became more pointed. “I call it ‘roadkill.’ ”

Lifting the screen, he revealed dark tire tracks. The coat was the kind of classically tailored outerwear typical in many Northern Californians’ wardrobes, but with the added print, Ungless gave it a sense of humor. 

The printing technique is one Ungless, 57, has been employing since his design-student days at Central Saint Martins college in London in the early 1990s. He most famously used the tire tread motif for his friend and former roommate Alexander McQueen’s spring 1995 collection “The Birds,” inspired by Alfred Hitchcock’s 1963, Bodega Bay-set film of the same name. The collection was a breakthrough for McQueen, who reigned as an international fashion star until his death in 2010. The collaboration forever etched Ungless’ name into fashion history. 

The ethos of Ungless’ now 8-year-old clothing brand, When Simon Met Ralph, is a combination of those two worlds: the brutal beauty of London’s underground culture of the 1990s and the eco-conscious, easy-dressing style of Marin. By sourcing dead stock and vintage garments as materials for his collections, he’s keeping fashion waste out

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