Pnina Tornai, resident designer of Kleinfeld Bridal in New York City, is a wonderfully creative spirit, and her talents range from designing, acting and cooking. I met her at Kleinfeld on a sunny Wednesday afternoon. We spoke about her daily life. She even shared her inspiration for creating her new budget-friendly collection LOVE (prices range from $2500+) and more. Read our interview with her below the photo gallery.
See more of Tornai and the Kleinfeld crew on Say Yes To The Dress on TLC.
Q Hi Pnina! Thank you so much for joining us today. So I know you’re a mom, actress and designer. Could tell us a little bit about what a typical day is like for you..
A I love to wake up back home in Israel, and I have this amazing dog that I love. Her name is actually Mascarpone Patchouli Jasmine. She’s white, a Maltese, and I start the day by holding her close to my heart. I take my time to look around and appreciate life — appreciate the fact that I wake up in the morning and see the sky and beauty of the world.
You know, I think that being a creator is a huge gift in life because it doesn’t happen to everyone and the fact that I am makes me cherish this gift. So I start like this. Then I try to work out, but I don’t always do. I hate working out. Hate it! But I always tell myself if I want to keep up with this crazy rhythm of flying around the world, working with brides and being on TV shows and interviews, I have to keep the pace of my heart fast enough because if you don’t you won’t have the strength to deal with all of that. So I try to work out.
I also love cooking. I’m a MasterChef in my country. I won second best in the celebrity version of MasterChef because I love cooking and I always prepare breakfast for my assistant. I don’t drive because my mind is everywhere and I’m always dreaming of the next thing, so I’m distracted [often] and I don’t want to hurt anyone by not driving reckless.
So my assistant comes in to pick me up and she has a special omelette I cook for her and we sit and plan the day. We talk about everything that we have to do and would love to do but I always keep a bit of time for my private life because, if you only do one thing, and you miss doing the other, you’re never going to be happy or completely satisfied so I try to combine everything. And of course I go to work, and with my work I’m hands on everything. I’m the one who designs the dresses, I give the instructions, I do the finishes on the dresses, and I’m really into every little detail and I love doing that. Because that’s the only way I can create and express what I feel. And that’s it!
When I have something to do on television, of course, we clear the day from all the rest. It takes too much energy. People think it’s easy standing in front of cameras. It’s so difficult, because what happens is you’re being yourself but you’re also being the best critic of yourself. Like you’re standing outside of yourself watching yourself and that drains the energy out of you. It’s so difficult.
Yes, I’m sure! Speaking of creative, I heard that you finished this collection in only 1 year.
Yes, it took me a year to come up with these dresses. 32 dresses, 32 different styles. There’s a dress for every bride out there from the classic fitted dress to the tulle ballroom gown.
Do you have experience working with lesbian brides or transgender brides?
Of course, my assistant, [who] is the closest person to me in the whole business is lesbian. I’m surrounded by my assistant and my director of marketing and social media, [who] is gay. It’s my life, it’s my world.
It’s our world too at Equally Wed!
Of course! I think it’s amazing and a huge gift for people to live in this time of the world because when you think of the times when people could not be who they are… I saw The Danish Girl, and it killed me for a whole week. I was going around with this pain in my chest because… what a waste! It’s your life. And just as how we’re not equal with how we look, how we don’t have the same color of eyes or skin, we [also] don’t have the same [sexual orientations]. If a person can’t be who they are, there’s no worse torture. I’m so happy I get to see brides [of] the same-sex committing to each other and wearing a wedding gown. This is the best time for all of us.
If a person can’t be who they are, there’s no worse torture.
And two gowns are better than one!
Exactly. Two brides are better than one!
Do you have any advice for brides who are both wearing dresses? Style advice, I mean?
Well I did have two brides with ballgowns because they both wanted to be princesses. So why not? And then I had a lot of couples [where] the bride wanted to be the princess and the other asked me if I could do a suit — a white suit. So that’s a different look, and it’s beautiful and I do do that. It’s an exception because I don’t have suits in my collection, but when two brides from the same sex want to be dressed by me, then I will absolutely do that. I will create a suit, but I’ll create anything as long as it’s for the sake of love.
And that’s your whole inspiration for this collection right? Love?
Absolutely. And if this world could really run on love, we’d be such an amazing place to live in. and as much as i can contribute to that, I will.
Wonderful. So you’ve been at Kleinfeld for 10 years now. How is it different from when you first started?
Oh, completely different. I think I changed the landscape of the bridal world. When I first came [to Kleinfeld], they had nothing like my dresses and they didn’t even want my dresses. They sent me out! They said “No no no no thank you, but we don’t want this. We’re never going to sell these dresses.” I said “you are. You have nothing like this.” They were more daring, more see-through. See-through corsets—no one ever did that before. And I came and said “I’m sorry, you’re wrong. You don’t have that. And your brides are too much of the same look. Too conservative. Why shouldn’t we try?”
And I said you don’t even need to buy them from me. Just put them on the floor and see. A month later, they called me and said these dresses are selling like crazy! They were scared I couldn’t manufacture them in time. I said, “Don’t worry, I’ll conquer the world.” I knew that. You know, the first time they refused, I went back home all the way to Israel, 11 hours away, and I cried on the plane. I was just weeping and said this could not be. So I tried again and sent them the dresses and said, “Don’t buy them from me just expose them on the floor.” I knew I was going to conquer the world with my dresses. I never studied fashion so I knew it was a gift from God. I knew that through being a bridal dress creator, I would be able to change somehow, the face of the world.
I do believe that when a bride wears my dress, she knows that it’s all about love. She feels it. It’s about giving a piece of my heart to each and every bride out there. This is who I am. I’ve always been this different person. I was never a child like other children. I loved being different. I was dreaming all the time and I believed in fairy tales. I loved dressing different — everybody looked at me like I was different, but this is the beauty. We’re unique. Each and every one of us. But not only artists. Everyone is not the same and trying to put everyone into one box and one frame is impossible. It’s the way society does to control, but I think it’s completely wrong. So I hope when a bride wears my dress, no matter what is her sexual preference, I just hope she feels like she’s loved.
Do you have any advice for the LGBTQ community?
Just be yourself. Have a feast every day. My new couture collection for 2017 is inspired by that. I’m inspired by everything I see. I walk out the streets and this last year I’ve been seeing ads where they try to play with your mind. It’s like a man and woman, but they both look like a woman. So I can’t recall exactly which ad it was that I saw, but it was amazing. I said that’s the year!
Last year was the transgender year. It’s funny because it’s incredible. I knew it long before it and I called a line Butterfly and I spoke about the change the butterfly goes through. The transformation from being a worm into a beautiful butterfly and that happened to be the transgender year with Caitlin Jenner, and I said oh, my god. I felt it.
Look at, for example, the Stuart Weitzman shoes ad of three women who are naked, but all wearing the same shoes. The message is so powerful. So that’s the year. And I have no doubt. So this year, I’m going to call my couture collection The Feast. It’s about when you decide to have a feast. It’s about what feast you have, and you don’t have to ask permission to have a life filled with happiness and feasts. So that’s what it is.
The photoshoot is amazing. There’s a huge table and amazing chairs and I’m taking this with chandeliers to different landscapes, like to the beach, the rocks and amazing landscapes. The message is you decide to take your feasts wherever you go. It’s not going to be told when you have a feast because you decide. Just like you decide when you want to love, who you want to love… it’s our life. We live only once. So that’s what it is.
Wow! I can’t wait to see The Feast dresses! Thank you so much for taking the time to speak to us and giving us a sneak peak of your new collection!
It’s so much fun. Thank you!