February 20, 2020

Spotlight on Faculty: Elena Rakitskaya

Elena Rakitskaya
Elena Rakitskaya
This article is part of our Spotlight series where we feature faculty and staff working in the department. In it, we’ll ask each participant four questions about themselves and their time at York.

1. Who are you?

My name is Elena Rakitskaya. I was born in the Arctic in Russia where my parents worked for the nuclear program that the Soviet government conducted at that time. My first exposure to fashion was a pet polar bear dressed in a sailor t-shirt.

Making clothes for yourself and a family was a valuable skill in the communist and post-communist era. My grandmother taught me how to sew and knit at a very early age. Later, I graduated from the Moscow State University of Design and Technology with a bachelor’s degree in fashion design.

Arctic fashion

When I immigrated to Canada, I had a challenging zigzag career path. But as all roads lead to Rome, In Canada, I eventually found myself in the clothing business but this time around in costume design for film and theatre. In film, the most memorable costume design project was for “Gangster Exchange”. As a Costume Designer, I received an award for the best costume design in feature film at the Action on Film International Film Festival, Los Angeles, 2009.

Action on Film International Film Festival, Los Angeles, 2009

In theatre, my credits include working on projects at the National Ballet of Canada, Canadian Opera Company, Broadway and Off-Broadway shows produced by Mirvish Productions.

My unforgettable events in costuming relate to working with Lady Gaga. In 2017, I tailored her pink leather outfit for The Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF). And a year later, in 2018, when Lady Gaga came to Toronto to promote “A Star Is Born” at TIFF, I was called to be her personal dresser. That was definitely an honour and at the time a “wow” adventure for me.

Lady Gaga at TIFF 2017.
Lady Gaga at TIFF 2018.

2. Tell us about a creative or research project that you have been immersed in recently

I am planning to complete my doctoral degree in education in 2020. The topic of my research is related to interpersonal relationships amongst students in online classes and curriculum design. The reason why I chose this topic is that I truly believe in the role of interpersonal relations in anything we do in our lives: whether it is personal relationships, business or studying. Building trust between students can be quite challenging, and interpersonal problems can lead to isolation and frustration and therefore impede student learning. I hope, by doing this research, I could contribute to a better understanding of the phenomenon of interpersonal relationships in the learning environment

3. What production or artist or scholar has had the most impact on you over the course of your career?

When I started my career in film and theatre, I was trying to find a book, a text, a manual that would help me to navigate the industry and the trade. There is no such book. Every production is unique. Every production is different. And in every production, you always learn something new.

4. Is there a quotation that inspires you?

“My friends, love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair. So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic. And we’ll change the world.”
—Jack Layton, Canadian politician