There are no batik or jacquard prints in Ong Shunmugam's latest collection. In fact, there are no prints at all. Call it strange or call it genius, but designer Priscilla Shunmugam's first diffusion line after nine years in the business of making rather expensive Asian dresses with a modern slant (think $1,000 cheongsams with peplums, unexpected asymmetrical baju kurungs and batik jumpsuits) is very... un-Ong Shunmugam. At least at first.

There's none of the obvious riff on Asian prints or silhouettes. To be honest, when we heard that Ong Shunmugam was coming up with a diffusion line, we thought it might be a cheaper, less intense version of its usual Asian floral prints on modern cuts, or at least one simple cheongsam silhouette, but this 23-style ready-to-wear collection in a mostly neutral colour palette is rather unexpected. The pieces look plain at first glance, but the magic is in the styling, and the attitude when you wear them. 

Priscilla tells 8days.sg: "The important distinction is that we are not trying to do Ong Shunmugam at a cheaper price. We want to continue the design language of Ong Shunmugam at a different pitch. OM is actually the first and last letters of the Ong Shunmugam, with the letters in between stripped away. If Ong Shunmugam is occasion wear and for the weekends, then OM is the Monday to Friday, the working woman's wardrobe."

"There are some brand new silhouettes in OM which may not work on the main line, but there are also cues from the main line, such as the piece with sleeves that take cues from our Meena cheongsam. The OM pieces have lighter and more flowy fabrics, as opposed to the heavier fabrics and linings for Ong Shunmugam, but we are carrying on our commitment to quality with the diffusion line. You can expect good construction and precise fit, with good quality fabrics. Pieces like basic well-cut navy or black pants designed for Asian proportions and skin tones — they're meant to integrate into your existing wardrobe. Even the colour palette is designed to mix and match with the other pieces in the collection or your own pieces. They're meant to become staples in your wardrobe."

In a nutshell, the new collection is a more affordable and very, very stripped down version of Ong Shunmugam, which is highly office-appropriate but also fun, with a cool modern twist. Because the pieces are so pared down, they're perfect for layering, accessorising and adding your own styling twist. And if you're thinking that you can finally afford an Ong Shunmugam, well, you're not the only one.

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