Pnina Tornai wants every bride to live the dream.
By Lynne Konstantin
Once upon a time, Pnina Tornai wanted to be an actress.
One night, however, she had a dream: “I was lying in the grass in my backyard and gorgeous wedding gowns were raining down from the sky,” Tornai says. “I vividly saw the details and fabrics of the gowns, and when I woke up, I decided that this was God telling me that this was what I am meant to do.”
The dream wasn’t totally out of the blue. Tornai, born in Israel to Moroccan and Egyptian parents, already had a small ready-to-wear clothing boutique in Tel Aviv. She had grown up making dresses for friends by cutting up her mother’s tablecloths (“she would go to get linens to dress the table and realize that half the tablecloth was missing,” Tornai says).
“I taught myself how to create patterns and properly construct clothes by deconstructing my own dresses,” she says. “I was always very creative and artistic. God gave me a gift to design and gave me the inspiration to do so during one of the hardest times of my life. That was when I realized what my strengths truly are and decided to follow my dreams.”
The designer shifted her focus to wedding gowns (plus evening-wear and custom mother-of-the-bride gowns), dividing her time between her Tel Aviv atelier and boutique and New York City, home of iconic bridal boutique Kleinfeld. Although she has additional boutiques across the globe, Tornai recently celebrated her 10-year anniversary with the iconic Kleinfeld, which is the exclusive U.S. retailer of Tornai’s gowns (Kleinfeld also has a location in Toronto) and where Tornai often appears on-screen in TLC’s Say Yes to the Dress.
“I fell in love with the combination of being on television and helping the brides at the same time,” says Tornai, who has had various roles on sitcoms and reality TV in Israel. “I love being able to inspire the brides at home who are watching by providing all of the tips and tricks to finding the most flattering and beautiful gown.”
Lofty and luscious, hand-beaded and hand-draped, Tornai’s gowns are the things of fairy tales, but still very modern. Embellished with elaborate embroidery, Alencon, Chantilly and Guipure lace and dripping with Swarovski crystals and precious stones, each is hand-sewn for a flawless finish. Unabashedly romantic, the gowns are also sexy and sophisticated, with plunging backs, peek-a-boo cutouts — and Tornai’s signature sheer corset top.
“It provides amazing fit and construction,” Tornai says. “It really accentuates the female figure and allows you to sculpt your torso and have the dress looser where it needs to be looser, and super-tight where you need support.”
Tornai — who met her husband and business manager David Loewenstein when a psychic she was visiting visualized his name, then passed Tornai’s name on to him when he happened to visit two days later — is eager for each bride to live her fantasy.
“I try to create a dress for every dream, for every bride,” she says. “Creating the most important dress in a woman’s life is such an honor for me, and I truly enjoy helping brides find the perfect dress. Seeing their faces light up when they find the dress is the best experience in the world.” NS
Tornai’s 2016 collection “was inspired by how the sunlight sparkles upon water and how the wind carves out the mountains.” The photos, shown here, were shot on location in the Timna Valley in Israel’s Negev Desert. For more information, visit her website at pninatornai.com, or Kleinfeld at kleinfeldbridal.com, (646) 633-4332.