David Emanuel was born in Bridgend, and studied design at Cardiff College of Art and then went on to Harrow School of Art London to study Fashion Design continuing at the Royal College of Art. He launched his own fashion house in 1977, and worked in partnership with his wife, Elizabeth, with whom he had two children before their divorce. In 1990 he established the "David Emanuel Couture" label. He became a favourite designer of Lady Diana Spencer before her marriage, having worked as an assistant to royal designer Hardy Amies, and was chosen to design the wedding dress partly as a gesture to Wales.
In 1995, a ten-part fashion series for HTV established Emanuel as a television presenter, and he appears regularly as a fashion consultant on magazine programmes including Fashion Television's "Shop The World" which has run for four seasons.
David Emanuel designs a collection for the UK women's clothing chain, Bonmarche.