Fashion Designer David Emanuel

150 150 Rob McGibbon

subject photo

Published: 29 March 2014

Fashion designer David Emanuel:

‘People think I’m posh but I’m anything but posh!’


Every week we ask a celebrity a set of probing questions – and only accept THE definitive answer. This week: I’m A Celebrity runner-up David Emanuel


The prized possession you value above all others... My health. I was diagnosed with prostate cancer in November 2012. A month later I went in for surgery. I was lucky it was caught so soon and I was given the all-clear in February last year.

The biggest regret you wish you could amend... That my mother Beti is not alive to see my children Oliver, now 34, and Eloise, 33, grown up. She died from an aneurism in 1988 when she was 63.

The film you can watch time and time again... My Fair Lady with Audrey Hepburn and Rex Harrison. It’s the ultimate makeover movie!

The temptation you wish you could resist... An ice-cold pint of Stella Artois on a hot English summer’s day. 

The book that holds an everlasting resonance... Five On A Treasure Island, the first of Enid Blyton’s Famous Five books. I grew up in Wales with plenty of open-air adventures so those books echo my childhood.The priority activity if you were the Invisible Man for a day... I’d sit in on a private clothes fitting for the Queen.

The pet hate that makes your hackles rise... Bad language.

The person who has influenced you most... The late Welsh opera singer Sir Geraint Evans. I met him when I was 15 and told him about my dream to go into fashion. His encouragement inspired me to take on new challenges, which was valuable when I faced big opportunities later, like being asked to design Princess Diana’s wedding dress in 1981.

The figure from history for whom you’d most like to buy a pie and a pint... I’d love to drag Marie Antoinette into a pub in her finest gowns and wig to talk to her about her passion for fashion. 

The piece of wisdom you would pass on to a child... Be honest and never lie.

The unlikely interest that engages your curiosity... I’m fascinated by technology. I’m 61 now and came to it very late, but I love it all now. 

The treasured item you lost and wish you could have again... The innocent excitement of my youth.

The unending quest that drives you on... To take on new challenges. Doing I’m A Celebrity was amazing and I’d go back into the jungle tomorrow. 

The poem that touches your soul... Death Is Nothing At All by Henry Scott Holland. I’ve read it at a few funerals and it always moves me hugely.

The misapprehension about yourself you wish you could erase... That I’m posh and grand. My dad, John, was a steelworker and my mum was a nurse and they had 11 children. I’m anything but posh. 

The way you would spend your fantasy 24 hours, with no travel restrictions... I’d begin the day alone in Bali, with a massage on the beach followed by a breakfast of exotic fruits. Then I’d spend all morning skiing in Gstaad, Switzerland, with my children. We’d stop for lunch at a chalet in the mountains. I’d have onion soup, a platter of cold meats and some gluhwein to warm me up. In the afternoon I’d go for a walk on Southerndown Beach in the Vale of Glamorgan, Wales, where I was brought up. I’d be joined by all my siblings – I’ve got nine brothers and one sister – and our dad, who’s 86. Later, I’d go for afternoon tea at Claridge’s with the kids. I’d have to stay off the pastries as I’m watching my weight. In the evening, I’d meet friends at the Palm Court bar of the Plaza Hotel in New York for a champagne cocktail, then we’d see a musical on Broadway. I’d host a dinner party at Doyles restaurant in Sydney, beginning with oysters, then a platter of fruit de mer with gallons of chilled Pinot Grigio white wine.

The song that means most to you... I Will Survive by Gloria Gaynor. I remember it being pumped out in Studio 54 (the New York nightclub) in the 80s. I remember dancing like crazy.

The philosophy that underpins your life... Life’s too short to waste time dithering.

The event that altered the course of your life and character... Getting accepted for Cardiff School of Art and Design. It changed my life and set me on the way to a career that I still love.  

The crime you would commit knowing you could get away with it... I’d steal Air Force One. I hate airports and it’s got to be the best private jet in the world.

The happiest moment you will cherish forever... The day on 4 February 2013 when I got the blood results that showed I was clear of cancer. I was greatly relieved and delighted.

The saddest time that shook your world... When my mum died. She was my biggest supporter and I miss her.

The unfulfilled ambition that continues to haunt you... To play a really nasty James Bond villain. 

The order of service at your funeral... I’d want a church service with people dressed in black. I want Gregorio Allegri’s Miserere played, then Mozart’s Requiem. I’d want everyone to raise a glass of Dom Perignon champagne, then for my children to scatter my ashes – half in my garden in Windsor and half on Southerndown Beach. I don’t want a gravestone or a memorial plaque. 

The way you want to be remembered... As a caring person who loved beautiful things. 

The Plug... David’s Spring/Summer collection is available at Bonmarché.