David Emanuel and Elizabeth - Fashion Designer Encyclopedia

British designers

Born: David— Bridgend, Wales, 17 November 1952; Elizabeth— born Elizabeth Weiner in London, 5 July 1953. Education: David— Attended Cardiff School of Art, Wales, 1972-75, and Harrow School of Art, Middlesex, 1974-75. Elizabeth— Attended Harrow School of Art, 1974-75. Both David and Elizabeth studied fashion in postgraduate courses at the Royal College of Art, 1976-77. Family: Married in 1976 (divorced 1990); children: Oliver and Eloise. Joint Career: Partners and directors of Emanuel, in London, 1977-90; created ready-to-wear line 1977-79; designed custom clothing only, 1979-90; fellows, Chartered Society of Designers, London, 1984; ballet and stage production designers, from 1985; established The Emanuel Shop, Beauchamp Place, London, 1987-90; collections also sold at Harrods and Harvey Nichols, London, and Bergdorf Goodman, Henri Bendell, and Neiman Marcus, New York; partnership dissolved, 1990. Individual Careers: David— Formed David Emanuel Couture, autumn 1990; fellow, the Society of Industrial Artists and Designers; designed wedding dress for actress Catherine Zeta-Jones, 2000; began monthly fashion column in Nurse2Nurse magazine, 2001. Elizabeth— Launched Elizabeth Emanuel Couture fashion label, 1991; designed complete range of Virgin Airways uniforms and accessories, 1991; established Sew Forth Productions, 1993; launched wedding dress line for Bridal Fashions, London, 1994; designed costumes for Ballet Rambert, London Contemporary Dance Theatre, and Royal Ballet productions, London, 1990-94, and for musical theatre production of Jean de Florette, London, 1994-95; designed costumes for films, television, music videos, ad campaigns, and dance productions, mid-to late 1990s; designed flight attendant uniforms for Brittania Airlines, 1999. Addresses: David Emanuel Couture, Lanesborough Hotel, Lanesborough Place, London, SW 1X 7TA, England; Elizabeth Emanuel, Sew Forth Productions, 26 Chiltern Street, London, W1M 1PF, England.




Style for All Seasons, London, 1983, 1984.


"Getting Going: David and Elizabeth Emanuel," in Designer, July 1981.

"Eyewitness in Manchester," in Manchester Online, 1 February 1999.

David— Nurse2Nurse magazine, August 2001 and forward.



Stegemeyer, Anne, Who's Who in Fashion, Third Edition, New York,1996.


Morris, B., "Couple's Design: Fit for a Queen," in the New York Times Biographical Service, November 1981.

Lynn, Frances, "The Amazing Emanuels," in Women's Journal (London), October 1983.

"New London Look: Lush, Plush," in Chicago Tribune, 20 March 1985.

Staniland, Kay, "The Wedding Dresses of H.R.H. the Princess of Wales and H.R.H. the Duchess of York," in Costume (London), 1987.

"Royal Treatment: Some of Britain's Top Designers have Taken Up Residence in London's Beauchamp Place," in Chicago Tribune, 10 February 1988.

Fairley, Josephine, "The 10-Year Stitch," in the Sunday Express Magazine (London), 27 November 1988.

"The Emanuel Gallery," in Vogue (London), December 1988.

Dutt, Robin, "The Emanuels," in Clothes Show (London), April 1989.

Fernand, Deirdre, "Framing a Fashion Career Move," in the Sunday Times (London), 7 January 1990.

Lee, Vinny, "Cream Sequence," in Sunday Express Magazine (London), 31 March 1991.


The romantic renaissance revival came to life in the early 1980s in the music world and in films. Nowhere, however, was it more apparent than in certain fashion circles. The announcement of the engagement of Charles, Prince of Wales, to Lady Diana Spencer made this an even bigger trend than it would normally have been. Lady Diana's penchant for ruffles created a need for this type of apparel, as she was already becoming a woman many wanted to emulate fashionwise.

It is appropriate the future princess chose the design team of David and Elizabeth Emanuel to create her wedding dress, because romance was the underlying theme to all of their clothing. Ruffles were the rule for the Emanuels, used on everything from gowns to pant suits and even swimwear. The duo, the only married couple to be accepted at the Royal College of Art, had operated their dressmaking shop in London since 1977, and in 1979 they took the unusual step of closing their ready-to-wear business to concentrate on the made-to-order business.

Although it was the ivory silk taffeta and tulle wedding dress worn by Diana in 1981 that brought the Emanuels international fame, they had a firmly entrenched business catering to what Americans would call the "carriage trade." It also enabled the Emanuels to enter into licensing agreements for items such as linens, sunglasses, and perfume.

Princess Anne and Princess Michael of Kent have both worn Emanuel designs for portraits. Her Royal Highness the Duchess of Kent joined these women and the Princess of Wales in their love of the Emanuels' work. Each dress was created specifically for the intended client, taking into account the ocassion where it would be worn, and the style of the wearer. Then a suitable reference in art was determined, and work progressed from there. Creations by artists from Botticelli to Renoir and Degas were used as influences, as were photographs of some of the more romantic women in history. The garments seen on Greta Garbo in Camille, Vivien Leigh in Gone with the Wind, and Marlene Dietrich in The Scarlet Empress were all recreated to some degree.

In this respect, David and Elizabeth were more stylists than designers, recreating a mood or image. They usually reinterpreted a design, however, rather than copied it—adding a fresh dimension through fabric or hidden detail. A wedding dress, for example, had subtly glittering mother-of-pearl sequins for a woman who was marrying in a dark church. The sequins picked up the light, allowing the bride to glow luminously. The veil for the Princess of Wales incorporated just such a sequin design, drawing attention to the bride. David and Elizabeth Emanuel were nothing if not retrospectively romantic, and all of their creations consciously reflected this trend.

Though Elizabeth and David divorced both personally and professionally in 1990, each continued in the couture businesses since their split. Both outfit numerous celebrities and are celebrities in their own right, particularly in the United Kingdom. They continue to separately design the wedding dresses for which they were best known during their partnership. Elizabeth has designed costumes for several ballet and dance companies, as well as for plays, movies, television series, music videos, and advertising campaigns. In 1997, she held a trunk show of her wedding dresses at Saks Fifth Avenue in New York, with her trip to the U.S. coinciding with the auction of the Princess of Wales' belongings at Christie's. As a result of this timing and the heightened interest in Princess Diana—Elizabeth appeared on many U.S. television programs, expanding her international reputation. At the same time she was receiving such acclaim as the creator of Princess Diana's wedding gown, Elizabeth designed the wedding dress worn by actress Elizabeth Hurley in Estée Lauder's advertising campaign for the fragrance Beautiful. Elizabeth also designed the uniforms for Britannia Charter Airlines' flight attendants, which debuted in 1999. Additionally, Elizabeth's couture designs were embraced by celebrities including Joan Collins, Faye Dunaway, Twiggy, Drew Barrymore, and many other actresses, as well as members of the royal family.

As for David, his most highly publicized fashion design in recent years, at least in terms of worldwide renown, was the wedding gown worn by actress Catherine Zeta-Jones in her marriage to Michael Douglas in a ceremony at New York's Plaza Hotel in 2001. Zeta-Jones hails from David's native Wales.

In addition to his couture work, David has been active in a number of other endeavors. He writes a monthly column on fashion for the UK monthly trade magazine Nurse2Nurse and appeared on numerous television shows, including a program called OOPS! on which he was part of a celebrity panel discussing topics such as raising teenagers. He has also experimented in interior design, creating the honeymoon suite at the small Sheene Mill Hotel in the United Kingdom.


updated by KarenRaugust

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