Reach for the stars: the rise of the designer diffusion label

Fittings with a bridal couturier can cost thousands, so it’s usually just for celebs and society brides. But a growing clutch of diffusion labels from some of the most revered names in the biz is offering a slice of star-style couture at rather more accessible prices.

So Sassi

xSo Sassi 2015 - Alice Moped
Alice sweetheart gown with dipped hem, around £1525, So Sassi

The designer: Sassi Holford has become renowned for impeccable cut and fit and a classic British look with a modern twist. One of her creations has even graced a royal wedding – Autumn Kelly wore one of her couture gowns on her wedding to Peter Phillips, the son of Princess Anne.

The label: So Sassi launched in 2012. “We could see there was a market for a high-quality ‘made in England’ label aimed at a younger bride with a budget of £1000 to £2000,” explains Sassi. All gowns are handmade in the same workrooms as her main collections, but are designed by a team of talented young fashion graduates, with Sassi acting as design director.

The look: “So Sassi gowns are beautiful, feminine, fun, fashionable and affordable,” says Sassi. “For the 2015 collection we have chosen gorgeous satins – countess, diamond duchesse and gorgone – and balanced those with the sensuous textures of peau de soie, georgette etoile and guipure lace.”

The price: From around £1100 to £1800.

Where to find: Isabella Jack Bridal in Kirkintilloch.

Tia by Benjamin Roberts

Style 5503 with lace sleeves and and soft A-line skirt, around £600, Tia by Benjamin Roberts,


The designer: The Benjamin Roberts collection has built up a reputation for great internal corset structure and a perfect fit.

The label: The Tia collection was launched in 2006 with destination brides in mind, and “those who want the designer feel but without the designer price tag,” adds Cath James at the brand. “The dresses are made with the same firm construction as our mainline collection, but in more lightweight fabrics.”

The look: “Our Tia collection is fresh, modern, contemporary, forward-thinking and affordable,” says Cath.

The price: From around £580 to £780.

Where to find: Scottish retailers include Love and Cherish, Perfect Dress, Elmar Bridal Collection, Wedding Daze, Pretty Woman and Opus Couture.

Badgley Mischka

Mansfield gown, around £2520, Badgley Mischka Collection

The designers: Since joining forces in 1988, Mark Badgley and James Mischka have been hailed by Vogue as one of the ‘Top Ten American Designers’ and are the darlings of the Hollywood set. Kelly Osbourne, Christina Hendricks and Taylor Swift have all worn their couture gowns on the red carpet.

The labels: Badgley Mischka actually create two diffusion labels for Enzoani (itself regarded as a powerhouse of American bridal style): Badgley Mischka Collection [pictured] and Badgley Mischka Bride.

The look: With designs constructed from the finest fabrics using superior craftsmanship, the Collection shines and glitters with confidence and ranges from exaggerated ballgowns through to form-hugging flattery. Badgley Mischka Bride, meanwhile, offers elegant, refined silhouettes that are big on intricate beading.

The price: From £1860.

Where to find: Badgley Mischka Bride at Opus Atelier and Perfect Bridal Rooms, while Badgley Mischka Collection is at Pan Pan Bridal, Perfect Bridal Rooms and The Bridal Garden.

Mae by Johanna Hehir

Cora corded lace bias-cut dress, POA, Mae by Johanna Hehir,


The designer: Over the last 15 years Johanna Hehir has become highly regarded in the bridal industry for her unique cuts and romantic detailing.

The label: Diffusion line Mae by Johanna Hehir was launched in 2012. “We wanted to offer brides-to-be a range of simple, flattering dresses made with quality fabrics at affordable prices,” explains Johanna.

The look: While the Johanna Hehir collection features clean, classic cuts and romantic detailing, the Mae by Johanna Hehir collection is more relaxed, with a vintage charm and simplicity all of its own. “We typically create effortlessly pretty dresses in feminine cuts with a flattering structure. You’ll notice plenty of soft georgette and vintage-style lace with delicate appliqué on many of the dresses,” Johanna points out.

The price: From around £1200 to £1650.

Where to find: Apple Blossom Time.

Joyce Young Collections

Lucy gown, £1895, Joyce Young Collections,


The designer: Scottish designer Joyce Young OBE has been continually praised for her elegant, timeless wedding dresses in luxurious European silks and laces – each couture gown is beautifully made and fitted to perfection by a team of 20 at a studio in the north of Glasgow.

The label: Joyce Young Collections was launched to appeal to those brides hankering after a Joyce Young creation at a lower price point. “Not everyone can afford or is prepared to spend over £2500 on a wedding dress [the price at which her couture gowns start],” says the designer. “But we had so much interest in our designs that it made sense to come up with a diffusion collection.” While couture gowns are made in Glasgow, diffusion-line dresses come in ready-made from Mauritius, although Joyce points out that “each one is individually made for each bride. They are fully made up at the first fit and alterations are made for a perfect fit.”

The look: Brides who appreciate elegant, simple designs in quality fabrics will love JYC gowns. “We use the finest georgettes, mikados, laces, crepes and soft satins, finished with intricate, subtle beading for a bit of sparkle but not bling,” says Joyce.

The price: £995 to £2400.

Where to find: At the Joyce Young boutique in Bearsden, near Glasgow.


Suki tea-length dress in ivory lace with blush pink underlay, £1600, MiaMia,


The designer: Alan Hannah is best known for high-end couture bridalwear which is made in London and overseen at every level by designer Marguerite Hannah.

The label: The MiaMia collection was launched in 2010 as a
prêt-à-porter concept with a lower price point than the main Alan Hannah line. “Marguerite also wanted to design a collection with a different look and this new label allowed her to make dresses which were more experimental,” explains Alan. “While Alan Hannah is made completely in London, some MiaMia gowns are made abroad and some are made at home – although the patterns and initial designs are all made in London,” he adds.

The look: “The collection uses different fabrics and can go in a more bohemian and softer direction. It has a lower price point as we don’t allow so many bespoke elements and we use slightly less expensive fabrics such as silk and man-made satins, silk organzas, chiffon and georgette,” reveals Alan. “MiaMia is aimed at modern independent brides who want to look sophisticated and unfussy and who have the confidence to wear something different.”

The price: From around £1000 to £1800.

Where to find: Anne Priscilla Bridal and Pretty Woman.

Elie by Elie Saab

Monceau gown with floral appliques in lace, organza and gemstones, POA, Elie by Elie Saab,


The designer: With a illustrious career spanning over 30 years, Lebanese designer Elie Saab has become synonymous with luxury and modernism. A serious couturier with a powerful and unique vision, he favours elegance in all his creations – including his range of wedding dresses. He achieved star status in 2002 when Halle Berry wore one of his gowns to the Oscars, and since then his gowns have graced international royalty and a multitude of A-listers at awards ceremonies.

The label: Elie by Elie Saab is manufactured by esteemed Spanish bridal house Pronovias and provides brides-to-be with a haute couture aesthetic.

The look: The 2015 collection is filled with romantic, dreamy styles that have glamour written all over them. Think large skirts, bows around the bust, a palette of ecru and ivory in fabrics such as organza, silk taffeta, mikado and chantilly lace, finished with a flourish of pearls and sequins.

The price: From £5000.

Where to find: Kavelle Couture in Edinburgh.