Meet Fashion Pioneer and Bay Area Educator Simon Ungless

simon ungless
Simon Ungless (photo by Isabella Bejarano)

Larkspur resident Simon Ungless has been leaving his mark on the fashion industry for more than two decades. Fashion die-hards still worship Alexander McQueen’s iconic 1996 Fall/Winter Dante and Spring/Summer 1995 The Birds collections — both of which Ungless played a major part in creating.


“I believe the Dante collection took McQueen to a new level of design and I’m still very proud to have been part of it,” he says. “I have one secret piece from the collection; it truly is my most valued possession.”


Originally from West Berkshire in Southern England, Ungless came to the Bay Area in 1996 to help build the fashion school at Academy of Art University. “It was going to be for six months max, but I fell in love with Northern California.” Twenty-five years on, now the executive director of the School of Fashion at the Academy, he is still innovating.


“Due to the pandemic, we are having to build new models in education … we have created a true hybrid situation where we have physical studio time done under full CDC guidelines paired with online classes and Zoom sessions. It’s the future, and although super challenging, it feels so right to be at the forefront,” adds Ungless. Between his career in education, consulting for major fashion brands and designing his own line, When Simon Met Ralph (@whensimonmetralph), Ungless still makes time to enjoy the perks of the Bay Area: “It’s my heaven on every level.”

when simon met ralph
A dress from Ungless's When Simon Met Ralph line (photo by Danielle Rueda)

Home design: Black & Gold on Noe Street — Samuel Genthner has the best taste in town for anything home related. Obsessed.


Vintage finds: I source vintage daily for When Simon Met Ralph so my sources are all over. I have had the best success at Goodwill and the Salvation Army in San Rafael, but yard sales, flea markets and estate sales in Marin and Sonoma are high on my list.


Buying gifts: I don’t do new. My two go-to places to find completely unique gifts are Murphy’s Curiosity Shop (1591 Sir Francis Drake Boulevard) and Beach House Style in Fairfax. I can spend hours in both and find items that are used, cared for and perfect for the people I buy for.


With out-of-towners: A night out in Fairfax. Start with a wander around the unique stores, then dinner at Sorella Caffe — literally the best place ever, with amazing atmosphere and live music — followed by lavender vanilla ice cream at Fairfax Scoop (63 Broadway, Fairfax) and live music at one of the bars.


To unwind: Low tide at Agate Beach with rock pools and a long walk around to Duxbury Reef and Bolinas Point will unwind anything.

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