“Life is a huge learning experience (as is building your own business) and you won’t know everything right off the bat. The world is forever changing with new technology and more efficient ways of doing things. I’ll be the first to admit, I don’t understand all of the intricacies of social media, but my social media manager does. I recognize the value in understanding social media at a deeper level, so I ask her whenever I have a question. It’s better to be in the know than live in ignorance! Enjoy the learning journey!”
I had the pleasure of interviewing Pnina Tornai, a leading bridal designer known worldwide for her luxury wedding gowns, as a star on TLC’s hit show “Say Yes to the Dress,” and as a respected lifestyle expert and innovator. Known as the Fairy Godmother of Brides, she makes women’s dreams become reality.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! What is your “backstory”?
You’re welcome! Most people think that I went to school to study fashion design, but that couldn’t be further from the truth! As a child, I would cut up my mother’s tablecloths to make clothes for my friends, but I never considered it as a career. I was focused on being an actress (which I still am in Israel). One day during a very difficult time in my life, I had a dream that I was lying in my backyard and bridal gowns were falling from the sky. I could see all of the details so clearly, from the embellishments to the fabrics, to the silhouettes, and I knew that this was a calling from God.
Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that happened to you since you started your company
I think the most interesting story is when I first flew to New York to show Kleinfeld Bridal my dresses. At the time, there was nothing like my gowns in America. While sexy gowns were typical for the Israeli bride, the owners and buyer of Kleinfeld were shocked when they saw them. They told me, “Don’t call us, we will call you,” and I flew home so upset. I wanted to conquer America! I wouldn’t let their opinion get me down, and I decided to send a few gowns anyway and told them not to open the boxes until I arrived back into New York. I received a call a few days later saying that they had a problem. They had opened the boxes without me and the gowns were selling like crazy! They weren’t sure if we could keep up with production. Needless to say, this was the beginning of a partnership that has lasted over ten years! And the rest is history. Today, I am the leading designer for Kleinfeld and I represent thirty percent of their sales.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
I think my company stands out because my employees are more than employees, they are my family! My team is diverse in ethnicity, religion, and age, and I love what each one of them brings to the table. Together we represent the dream of world peace. We live as though we are one. I enjoy spending time with them and we always do fun things together, whether its celebrating the launch of a collection, going to dinner, or just having a girls day with my team in New York. I think it’s rare to have such a close connection with the people you work with. We not only help each other professionally, but also personally. I am always there for them and they are always there for me. I even help my social media manager with her dating life!
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
I would have to say that without my husband David, I wouldn’t be where I am today, He not only helps me manage the business and balances out my creativity, but he always reminds me that I am capable of conquering any challenge and that anything is possible. Whenever I want to give up, he won’t let me! He always pushes me to be my best. Another person who I love dearly and who is an amazing help to me is my best friend, manager, and director of operations Michal. She directs my entire life like a movie and we always find ourselves laughing along the way.
Are you working on any exciting projects now?
Believe it or not, I already have to start thinking about my 2019 Couture Collection that launches in October, even though we just launched the 2019 LOVE by Pnina Tornai Collection. There are more exciting things to come, but I can’t mention them yet! Stay tuned and follow me on Instagram @pninatornai to stay up to date.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
To me, success is nothing if you don’t use it to help others. While I help brides all around the world find their dream gowns, I also help many other brides and fans via my social media channels. So many people share their stories with me and if I can give them one word of encouragement that helps them get through a difficult time or gives them the courage to pursue their dream, I am happy to know that I’ve helped make a difference. We have our own experiences in life so that we can help others going through the same things.
Do you have a favorite book that made a deep impact on your life? Can you share a story?
One of my favorite books is “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change” by Stephen R. Covey. It really helped me to look inside of myself and see where I could improve in business and in life. It speaks about how your attitude towards things can really affect your entire life and how to take responsibility for the things going on around you instead of being the victim. I recommend it to anyone looking to make some personal changes! It’s helped me to not let the behavior of others get to me and to focus on the positives in life and on the things I can change instead of fighting against those that are not in my power.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me before I started my company” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
1.) Stay true to your vision.
This is so important and I tell anyone starting a business this exact line. There are so many people doing so many different things and its easy to get caught up in comparison and second guessing yourself. And you know what? A lot of people may have a vision similar to yours, but that doesn’t mean you should throw in the towel either. There are so many Israeli designers out there, but I know what sets me apart from the competition and I focus on those strengths so other people see them too. What is yours is yours, what is not, is not. Do not stay in your comfort zone and challenge yourself to achieve that vision.
2.) Accept your weaknesses and find people to balance them out.
Speaking of weaknesses, don’t beat yourself up if there is something you aren’t great at. Guess what, there are a bunch of people who are! So invest in someone who can help you. While I was great at designing, I wasn’t too good at patternmaking (or sewing), so I invested in hiring someone to do that work for me, and I worked on my strength of designing and sourcing the world’s finest fabrics and embellishments. I’ve always had an eye for quality! Dreams don’t work unless you do!
3.) People will say no, doubt you, or criticize you.
While rejection is never fun (especially when it comes from people you love), you need to accept that this is a normal part of moving forward. Criticism from others can sometimes stem from jealousy or their own self-doubt. If I had listened to the buyer and owners of Kleinfeld the first time, who knows where I would be right now!
4.) Admit you don’t know everything, and then work on understanding it.
Life is a huge learning experience (as is building your own business) and you won’t know everything right off the bat. The world is forever changing with new technology and more efficient ways of doing things. I’ll be the first to admit, I don’t understand all of the intricacies of social media, but my social media manager does. I recognize the value in understanding social media at a deeper level, so I ask her whenever I have a question. It’s better to be in the know than live in ignorance! Enjoy the learning journey!
5.) Invest in your people.
People are your best resource. Treat them well, get to know them, and tell them you appreciate them. When I recognize a good worker, I’ll do everything in my power to keep them. Make sure they are comfortable with talking to you about what’s going on. I never want an employee to leave because of an issue that could have been resolved!
Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might see this. :-)
I would LOVE to have breakfast with (and design for) Lady Gaga because I love how true she is to herself and how she’s so unapologetic! She is a true artist.
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!