BEAMING with pride, Dame Deborah James’s daughter Eloise is the image of her stunning mum.
The 13-year-old, speaking exclusively to The Sun, has today shared how excited she is to be “walking in mummy’s footsteps”, as she continues Dame Debs’ incredible legacy.
And the focus of the fashion-obsessed teenager’s excitement is her very own In The Style collection, which will raise money for her mum’s Bowelbabe Fund.
Featuring Deborah’s trademark bright colours and her favourite flowers, every piece is inspired by her mum, Ellie tells me, in her first solo interview.
It comes just over a year after Dame Debs designed her very own collection with the fashion brand, just weeks before she died.
“I am so excited and proud to be able to do this,” Ellie says.
“I’m walking in my mum’s footsteps and following the path she set for me.”
Eloise’s pride at honouring her mum is only eclipsed by that of dad, Seb Bowen, 43.
Speaking from one of Dame Debs’ favourite places, in the South of France where the family are on holiday, Seb tells me it is “exactly” what his wife would’ve wanted for their youngest.
Seb, who is also dad to Hugo, 15, says: “I am incredibly proud and I know Deborah would be too.
“It’s exactly what she wanted for Ellie, and it’s a lovely example of how she was determined to do things in those last weeks to set the kids up for later in life.
“She wanted to make sure that, in the Bowelbabe Fund, the kids – and the whole family – had something really positive to focus on.”
When Dame Debs shared with the world that she was receiving end of life care at her parents’ home in Woking last May, she was given just days to live.
She launched the Bowelbabe Fund, with a goal of hitting her £250,000 target and within a week the total stood at £1million.
By the time she died, seven weeks later, she had raised a staggering £7million to fund research into new cancer treatments, in the hope others would not have to face her fate – the total currently stands at £11.3million.
It was by far her only achievement in those last weeks.
Debs was honoured with a Damehood by Prince William after The Sun mounted a campaign to recognise her extraordinary campaigning.
The 40-year-old finished her second book, had a rose named after her and, working with In The Style she launched first a charity T-shirt bearing her ‘Rebellious Hope’ motto, and then a stunning collection of dresses, tops and skirts – all to raise money for her Fund.
“It is an amazing achievement, to have raised so much money,” Ellie tells me.
“I am just really excited to be a part of it, and help continue what my mum started.”
It’s clear to those who knew and loved Dame Debs that her spirit runs through the very fibres of Eloise’s designs.
From the bright pinks and oranges to the rose patterns – a nod to the Dame’s favourite flower – the collection screams Debs, and is the perfect tribute to her.
When asked which design is her favourite, Ellie tells me: “I love the strappy pink one with the roses, and the short orange one – I just love the shape of them both.”
And which would’ve taken her mum’s fancy?
“I think mummy would love the ones in the pink, rose pattern – roses were her favourite, she just loves roses. And it’s just a really fun pattern.
“She loved the white dress from the first collection, with the puffy sleeves so I think she’d love to see similar shapes in my designs.”
It’s not just Debs’ smile that Ellie inherited from her mum.
The teenager is bright, bubbly, has the same infectious personality and she radiates Deborah’s magical sparkle.
They shared a love of dancing, fancy dress, glitter, and both adored fashion – getting dressed up and often posing together in Deborah’s enchanting Instagram posts.
“Mum really, really loved working with In The Style last year, designing her own collection,” Eloise says.
“So I think she would be really happy to know I am getting to design my own too.
“She always knew that I liked being involved and I loved the dresses she designed.
“I think she would be quite proud.”
Chances are Eloise’s collection would come as little surprise to Dame Debs.
Seb tells me: “Eloise has always, always loved the arts, fashion and even when she was little she was always coming up with designs and had ideas for new brands.
“It was always in Deborah’s mind, and it was always in Ellie’s mind too – she would’ve loved to see this.”
‘Dream come true’
To be able to add Fashion Designer to her CV is a “dream come true”, Ellie admits.
“I was buzzing when they first got in touch, I’ve always wanted to work in the fashion industry and this was just a dream come true.
“I had to take a bunch of pictures of different shapes, styles, colours and patterns that I really liked.
“Then we worked on pulling those ideas together into rough sketches.
“I then got to go through the designs with them and make little changes and add my touches.
“They really accepted my ideas and took them on board, they made my ideas a reality.
“Mummy made such an amazing collection last year, and it was my inspiration.
“I wanted to do her designs justice, and make her proud.
“I did make a few tiny tweaks to make it a bit younger, a bit cheekier, I added brighter colours.
“It was really important to me that the collection was really fun – I think it’s really cool.
“I want people to feel happy when they put it on, it’s a celebration to celebrate her and I want people to feel excited about it.”
For Eloise, one of her favourite memories of last year’s collection is modelling Dame Debs’ designs at her grandparents’ home.
Debs, surrounded by Eloise, her mum Heather, sister Sarah and brother’s fiance Ashley, posed in her collection, just weeks before she died.
“My favourite memory of it has to be when we were all outside and it started pouring with rain and we all ran inside,” Ellie says.
“But mummy said we had to all run back outside. That’s something I loved about her, she just didn’t let anything stop her, she just kept on doing what she loved.”
This year, Eloise is back in front of the camera, showing off her own designs.
And in a sweet nod to her mum, the 13-year-old is pictured on the balcony where she is staying with her dad and brother in France.
It’s the same balcony that Deborah was photographed on wearing a white dress in what has become one of the most recognisable images of her – the photo that accompanied the Instagram post that announced she had died.
“It’s hard to put into words how it felt to do the photoshoot in such a special place,” Ellie says.
“It felt really good, and it just felt right.”
Proud dad Seb tells me that what makes this all so special is knowing that his wife has given their daughter this opportunity.
“I know how much Deborah would’ve loved to see Ellie’s collection,” he says.
“But most of all, she would love to see the huge opportunity she has given Eloise – it’s an experience that most 13-year-olds don’t get, and we are so grateful for it.
“I want to thank In The Style, for what they’ve given Ellie and the £1.7million they have already raised for the Bowelbabe Fund. They’ve been so supportive throughout.”