The Welshman & a wedding dress for the Princess of Wales
By, Sergio Burns
On Wednesday July 29, 1981, Prince Charles, the Prince of Wales, the 33 year-old heir to the throne, married 20 year-old Lady Diana Spencer. On the streets 600,000 people waited patiently in the hope of catching a glimpse of the Royal couple, while a television audience of 750 million watched the ceremony as it was beamed live. Many, of course, hoping to to get a good look at the all important wedding dress. For David Emanuel and his then wife, Elizabeth, it was one of the most exciting days of their lives. They had been responsible for the design and delivery of the wedding dress, the glamorous, soon to be Princess Diana, was wearing.
“The call came, she rang up and made an appointment just like anyone else,” David explained to Ayrshire Magazine as he recalled the day Princess Diana hired them. “Except it wasn’t just anyone else.”
The Emanuels were now in the elevated company of Royalty, they were to make the wedding dress for the woman who, potentially, could be the wife of the next King. There was pressure, of course, but David Emanuel remembered it as a happy experience with a woman who was easy to work with.
and my ex-wife Elizabeth felt honoured, obviously, but we treated it like any other commission. We worked on a dress that was right for the client and the occasion. But we realised she was going in as Lady Diana, but coming out as HRH, The Princess of Wales. Diana was an absolute joy. My biggest compliment was on leaving my studio the night of the Royal Wedding, the phone went and it was ‘me’ – she’d always say that (Princess Diana). She was delighted and said Prince Charles loved the dress, all the family loved it and it was a really nice compliment to have.”
Born and raised just outside Cardiff, Emanuel was one member of a large and often boisterous family, speaking Welsh as his first language. Always inclined toward the more creative side, he had substantial musical ability, played several instruments and sang in the County Youth Choir. But it was always art and design that captivated the Young David.
“I loved art and music from a young age,” Emanuel revealed. “I used to draw non stop, all day, every day and, if I wasn’t drawing, I was playing the piano. I attended Cardiff School of Art and Design and found myself drawn to beautiful things. I knew fashion was what I wanted to do and it went from there really.”
After studying at the Cardiff School of Art and Design, he moved to London and studied at Harrow School of Art, where he met Elizabeth Weiner, his future wife. Born in London to an American father and British mother, Elizabeth married David in 1976 and later the two became the first married couple to study at the Royal College of Art – where David completed his Masters of Art in Fashion Design. The couple also launched their own fashion house in 1977 and together have two children, Oliver and Eloise.
The life changing moment, of course, was making that very special wedding dress for Princess Di. It was made from the finest ivory silk, pure taffeta and antique lace. An iconic creation which had no fewer than 10,000 pearls incorporated into the design, as well as a magnificent 25 foot train.
The Emanuels divorced in 1990, and today David has his own business, David Emanuel Couture. He has dressed some of the biggest names on the planet including Joan Collins, Faye Dunaway, Madonna, Catherine Zeta-Jones and Ivana Trump. The business is also involved in wardrobe design for stage productions.
“Anything for the theatre, the ballet or a concert, needs to be larger than life, to register for the audience” he told us. “It is both fantasy and fun.”
In 2013, Emanuel was one of the contestants on I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here, finishing a creditable second. The show was won by Kian Egan with Lucy Parteger in third place.
“Brilliant, terrifying, but brilliant,” Emanuel said of the experience. “I thought if I can do this I can do anything. It taught me so much and I tried things I never thought I would. The challenges were testing at times, but they gave you purpose and something to put your mind to. I found the food (or lack of it) quite difficult. It was a once in a lifetime experience, I would go back tomorrow.”
In March this year it was announced David Emanuel would front the British Version of the enormously popular US show Say Yes To The Dress. The UK’s Say Yes To The Dress airs on Fridays at 9pm on TLC. TLC is available on Sky 125, Virgin 167, BT TV 323, Talk Talk 323.
Looking back David Emanuel appears contented with a successful life in the fashion industry, and was keen to pass on his experiences to anyone hoping to follow this line of work as a career. Reminding people it’s not ALL about glitz and glamour.
“Listen to advice,” He told us candidly. “Take it on board and never give up. Real talent will shine through, but you have to have determination and be prepared for anything to be thrown at you along the way. But remember, it is 95 per cent hard work and 5 per cent glamour.”
Say Yes To The Dress showing at 9pm, Fridays on TLC, might be a good place to start.
David Emanuel knows that success does not come easy but he is a living example of what is possible. From Princess Di’s wedding dress to I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out of Here over 20 years later, and onto Say Yes To The Dress, it’s been an exciting and at times, unpredictable ride.