Menswear for women: Raf Simons releases 100 items from past collections on MatchesFashion

Pick up a classic black blazer or the designer's more rebellious prints as part of the label's 25th anniversary

The "low in stock" and "sold out" tags are peppered across the latest – and yet oldest – Raf Simons collection on UK portal MatchesFashion, but there are a few pieces you can still snap up. These include a roll-neck logo-embroidered top from 1998; a hooded applique-patch cotton shirt from 2002; and a wool-blend coat from 2014.

Welcome to the world of Raf Simons, a label that marked its 25th anniversary by rereleasing 100 pieces from its archive, exclusively on MatchesFashion to give fans access to clothing that were last on sale years ago.

The Raf Simons Archive Redux

The selection has been curated by designer and creative director Simons himself, who spent hours trawling though a quarter century's worth of work. “We’d been thinking about it for quite a long time, then we thought it would be interesting to do it when the brand had existed for 25 years,” Simons explains.

The brand's exploration of traditional menswear with a rebellious youthful spirit has a unique appeal to our female customer

Given his body of work and the cyclical nature of fashion, the designer came across a new generation of fans eager to own certain looks that were perhaps years old. "I had a lot of reactions from young people who wanted pieces, and who weren't even born when we were making certain pieces. I was thinking a lot about the access, that it's a pity we cannot offer them any more. But at the same time, I was thinking is it wrong to the people who have been paying a lot of money for the archive pieces, and they might be a bit upset. Then I thought, at the end, it's only 100 pieces out of 25 years."

Simons admits choosing the pieces was complicated. "It was not so easy to decide. Was it emotional? Maybe in certain moments because it is very much connected to memories. But it was interesting, curious."

Signature Simons pieces up for sale

Jacket from the autumn / winter 2014 collection

The Raf Simons label has gained a dedicated following for its intellectual take on menswear. Drawing heavily on art, music and even diverse topics such as the David Lynch series Twin Peaks and horror films, everything is distilled into designs that are a blend of youth, street and traditional tailoring.

The reissue includes many of the designer's famous looks. There is a classic black blazer from 1999 and hand-painted parkas from 2004. A double-­faced wool coat comes from the 2015 Sterling Ruby collection, the immaculate cut and construction sitting at odds with the punk references patched on it. 

Another quietly rebellious piece is a poplin work shirt from the Consumed spring / summer 2003 show, that saw Simons rework corporate logos into tone-on-tone embroidery. Then there is the sleeveless, boxy T-Shirt from spring / summer 1996, with the single word 'Generation' printed in Warhol-style repetition down the front.

Raf Simons for women

A striped sweater from the spring / summer 1997 collection for men is photographed on a female model, as part of the Raf Simons Archive Redux at Matches Fashion

The collection is being sold for both men and women on MatchesFashion. Even when it came to photographing the archive, many of the clothes were shown on female models. As Natalie Kingham, the platform's global fashion officer, explains: "We have long admired Raf Simons and worked closely with the brand to launch the menswear collections for our womenswear customers. The brand's exploration of traditional menswear with a rebellious youthful spirit has a unique appeal to our female customer."

Yet, despite the gender-crossing appeal of his aesthetic, Simons's first women's collection was released only last year. He has designed womenswear for years – just never for his own label, until now.

As a womenswear designer, Simons is credited with having brought a sensual edge to the severe label Jil Sander during his 2005 to 2012 tenure, while as creative director for Christian Dior, from 2012 to 2015, his collections were received with nothing short of rapture. He then moved to Calvin Klein, until last year, when he showed his first collection as co-creative director at Prada.

Known for his excellent cutting, a skill honed over the years, Simons is adept at mixing slim silhouettes with street style. He can throw in a punkish edge, and yet retain an air of storied quality. Smart, complex yet unnervingly understated, this is the appeal of Raf Simons pieces. To most, it is simply a well cut coat, or a neatly tailored pair of trousers. To the wearer, and those in the know, it mirrors facets that the designer finds intriguing, or equally, unsettling, and it's little wonder his archive is in demand again.