TORONTO - Pnina Tornai already has received plenty of love from Canadian brides who have flocked to New York's Kleinfeld salon to snap up one of her lavish dresses, as well as fans who've seen the gowns — and the designer herself — featured on popular TLC series "Say Yes to the Dress."
Homegrown brides-to-be seeking their own personal Pnina will soon have a shorter distance to travel. Hudson's Bay is preparing to open its own Kleinfeld salon May 1 at its Queen Street location in downtown Toronto, where Tornai's creations will be among the featured attractions.
"For eight years, I've been seeing the Canadian bride in New York, and for some reason the Canadian bride always ends up buying a Pnina dress — one of my dresses," the affable Tornai said during a recent interview in Toronto, outfitted in a sleek, long-sleeved black dress (one of her own creations) paired with Christian Louboutin boots.
"It's so obvious for me that I have to be here, because that's my bride."
Tornai was in town for what was billed as her first Canadian appearance — a trunk show at The Wedding Room wedding show — where she brought about 60 gowns and met with brides-to-be.
She has taken the work commute to new extremes, travelling monthly from her hometown of Tel Aviv to New York for eight years to meet with brides. Such devotion has brought her recognition and exposure through her runway showcases and work as a both a reality star and actress. But the miles in the sky, she says, are necessary for a different reason as well.
"I receive my inspiration from working with the brides, from meeting so many different brides from all over the world, different cultures, and working with the bride really makes me create," Tornai said.
"I think those brides deserve to work with the artists. I think it's not the same if I send a rep. It's not the same. I'm the mother of the dress!" she added, with a laugh.
Her range includes more spare, minimalist offerings, like elegant sheath dresses in silk satin and lace. But it's the ornate gowns showcasing sexy, sheer bodices, voluminous ball gowns, elaborate embroidery and creations swathed in copious clusters of crystals that have helped distinguished the designer's bridal wear offerings.
"I would say my corsets are my signature," said Tornai, who also designs eveningwear.
"I love draping the whole dress in one piece of fabric — which is very difficult to realize and do — but the result is really unique," she added.
Viewers of "Say Yes to the Dress" are well aware Tornai's designs can come with a price tag in the five-figure range.
Tornai said the gowns are made in Tel Aviv — where she works with a team of about 50 women — and said the dresses "goes through every hand that works with me" including pattern-makers, sewers, cutters and beaders.
She said wedding gowns start from around $3,500 and that "the sky's the limit," as it depends on the nature of work needed to achieved the wishes of a specific bride. She recalled one client who wanted real, precious stones sewn into her dress.
"Sometimes it's unique fabrics, sometimes it's the way we work with the fabrics and it's the time that it takes. We have skirts that take 280 hours to sew," she said.
"It's handrolled flowers, it's sculpturing flowers, it's hand beading, it's Swarovski stones, it's sometimes zircons that we use on dresses."
Tornai said she also has what she calls in-between collections where she seeks to maintain the spirit of her line while scaling down prices so most brides can afford to wear one of her creations.
There are plenty of wedding dress guides offering guidance for selecting certain styles to help flatter a woman's figure: mermaid or trumpet-style gowns for hourglass shapes, empire dresses for plus-sized brides and sheaths or column dresses for slender or petite women.
Tornai seems less rigid when it comes to following a structured set of rules in picking the ideal dress, noting the brides should be more mindful of their proportions rather than fixating on the size of the gown. That said, she recommended women try to narrow their focus on a particular look they may favour to help navigate through the available styles, but to also be open to trying different cuts if their initial picks don't pass muster.
Tornai is hoping to parlay her success into other apparel and accessory offerings, with plans to launch a bathing suit line and thoughts of creating lingerie.
"My dream is to be — believe it or not — like the Martha Stewart of the bridal world," she said.
"I can imagine myself very soon on QVC or home shopping television showing so many different items, so many different things that can go into the bridal world or even expand into the everyday world."
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