Diffusion lines are no longer the poor little sisters of big fashion labels. Jing Zhang chooses five that fuse hip with high fashion at friendlier prices
London-based, Turkish-Cypriot Hussein Chalayan is the thinking woman's designer. Few expected a secondary label from the talent who gave us the table skirt (a skirt that literally transformed into a table) and dressed Bjork. Chalayan's contemporary Grey line label has simple, wearable pieces that reflect his love of architecture and futurism. The collection is fresh, great for daywear, and can be embellished with heels and big, bold jewellery for evenings. The designer has announced that from spring-summer 2014, both the Chalayan Black line (his main, high fashion line) and Chalayan Grey will be folded into one line, called Chalayan. All the more reason to buy Grey before it disappears: a piece of Chalayan history at an affordable price. The current collection has neon accents and sleek, mesh panel inserts. We love the dreamy signature print of this season and the handkerchief hem shirts.
T By Alexander Wang
Probably one of the most famous secondary lines, this more casual range is by the Asian-American designer who recently landed the coveted top spot at the French maison of Balenciaga. While embodying the tough New York girl aesthetic of the Alexander Wang main label, T by Alexander Wang focuses more on comfortable jerseys, cotton twill, silk blends and crepe de chine shirts. The look is sporty luxe, androgynous and minimal, and the feel is soft and supple. With stretchy slip dresses for hot summer evenings, panelled wide-cut shirts for work, unadorned basics and chic tailored jackets, 'T' provides a good, fundamental wardrobe for all seasons. For spring-summer 2013, Wang has opted for greys, blacks, whites, washed-out pastels and the odd inky shade, such as on the boxy blazer and shorts. We also love the array of simple shirtdresses, which are perfect for Hong Kong summers.
Marc by Marc Jacobs
Robert Duffy, Marc Jacobs' chief executive and business partner, once told me the Marc Jacobs customer wants to buy something each season, whereas the Marc by Marc Jacobs customer wants something new every day. Last month, Duffy admitted to Women's Wear Daily that the label had "rested on our laurels" - so to reignite the line, designer Marc Jacobs (who has his main line, as well as Louis Vuitton on his plate) will be taking a step back. Instead, Brits Luella Bartley and Katie Hillier are coming onboard to spearhead the brand next season.
Although the label, launched in 2001, has seen its highs and lows, it has one of the most recognised diffusion lines with a particularly popular range of accessories and bags. Fun, accessible and with a distinctive pop influence, the label uses colourful prints with silhouettes, and is often influenced by vintage styles. This season's collection sees an explosion of clashing colours and prints that work well on wide skirts, ethnic headscarves and little summer dresses, all evoking a luxe world traveller.
rdm by Rue du Mail
Designed by the Parisian designer Martine Sitbon, who also does the main Rue du Mail line, rdm concentrates on chic separates and stylish working outfits for a younger woman. Infusing the designs with an effortless Parisian style, Sitbon keeps things clean but quirky, and always contemporary, at rdm. This season is all about contrasting surface textures and a minimal vibe. There is a great belted paper trench zip-up vest, and liquid copper shorts and top to look out for. We've also got our eyes on the poplin trench dress and the poplin shirt with cut-out collar detailing.
Available at Harvey Nichols, Landmark; D-Mop, 11-15 On Lan Street, Central; shopbop.com
The little sibling of the loud and proud Versace brand is billed as a younger, more rebellious line, offering both men's and women's wear. For some years Donatella Versace enlisted the help of designer Christopher Kane to give it street cred and a cool, feminine edge. She has since tapped another of the young London talents for autumn-winter 2013, JW Anderson, who continues to push boundaries with an androgynous capsule collection. If you like to mix the aggressive 1990s prints of the Versace brand (a gold belt print bomber jacket) with its obvious sexuality (tight, leather studded dress) with a rock'n'roll edge (safety pin on skirts and shoes), then Versus is for you. While it is not for the über girly, the current collection does include some shiny fuchsia and great geometric optic prints.
SIX OTHER NAMES TO WATCH OUT FOR
McQ - great prints and sculpted shapes - dark, edgy and effortlessly cool from Alexander McQueen. Available at Lane Crawford, Harvey Nichols and net-a-porter.com
MM6 - from Maison Martin Margiela for high-brow avant-gardists. Available at Maison Martin Margiela in Ice House Street, Central and I.T
Alice by Temperley - feminine, bourgeois bohemian (or "bobo" as they are calling it), a freer everyday look compared to the Temperley main line. Available at temperleylondon.com net-a-porter.com and aboutique.hk
Victoria, Victoria Beckham - chic like Beckham, but with a more girly edge, where cool shifts and tunic dresses dominate. Available at Lane Crawford, net-a-porter.com
Michael, Michael Kors - easy elegance, classic pieces ideal for a resort and travelling. Available at Lane Crawford and michaelkors.com
Comme des Garçons - From Play Comme des Garçons to Black Comme des Garçons, there's simply too many to count from the Japanese fashion house. Available at Commes des Garçons and I.T