Anna Lacivita, History of Costume and Fabric Science professor at George Brown College, costume designer, stylist, choreographer, draper, and set designer.
I had the pleasure of first meeting Anna on Friday, January 9, 2015, it was my first class for History of Costume and I was absolutely giddy with excitement. I had been waiting so long for this particular course. History of Costume is a topic in which I am knowledgeable and deeply fond of and I couldn’t wait to meet the professor who would enlighten me further. All week my schoolmates who had already had their first class were telling me how much I was going to love it. I remember sitting in my seat, right near the front, my hands were shaking, palms sweating and I could feel colour rising to my cheeks. My friend sitting next to me, making fun of my eagerness to learn, I had my notebook open to a fresh new page and my pen at the ready, already prepared to begin vigorously writing down whatever words Anna would say. Friday quickly became my favourite day of the week and History of Costume, my favourite class and Anna my favourite professor. As the weeks went on and I slowly learned more about Anna, her favourite historical pieces and random snippets of her preferences and career history, I knew that I needed to learn everything from her and so it was obvious that I would need to interview her.
We met on a Friday, an hour before class. I was a little nervous but that quickly disappeared after Anna politely asked if it was okay if she ate her clementine whilst I interviewed her. She didn’t always want to work in fashion, “No, I wanted to be a teacher or chiropractor…I was really fascinated with the human body, but I guess it’s kinda connected. I always took drawing classes and was drawing from live nudes…I really got into studying the body, it’s helpful when you’re designing.” Her transition into the designing community began with dance. She choreographed and designed costumes for over 10 years in Ontario. Her designs were recognized and she won many awards which led her to study at York University in Theater Design. She also studied at the Istituto Marangoni in Milan for fashion design and at the Tisch School of the Arts, New York University for Design for Stage and Film.
She stayed in New York and began as a design assist, assisting Oscar and Tony award winning designers for theatre, “I think it’s more difficult to be an assistant or an associate because essentially you’re not thinking for how you want it to be, you’re thinking how somebody else would want it to be. So you have to know the designer’s aesthetic and how they would want it. It’s a hard job, I actually think it’s a lot harder to be an assistant or associate than being a designer. Because when you’re a designer, you call all the shots.” Anna also had the fantastic opportunity to work on Broadway, “Broadway was so much fun because usually they’re bigger budgets and bigger teams. But then because of my dance background I was able to really lead a lot of the teams because I knew a lot of what would work and what wouldn’t work, especially when you have quick changes.”
Anna has done just about everything in the theatre and film industry, she even did assistant set design for movies starring Nicole Kidman, “So they always worked in Nashville, because that’s where she lived…so I stayed in New York and I never went to Nashville and everything happened through Skype or through phone…so I never actually met the team personally…and so what my job was all about finding fabrics for furniture, costume, curtains, matching paint colours, so a lot of colour planning…so I was their New York person.” She would ship fabrics every day and they would be sent back if they were usable or not.
She even styled up-and-coming soul bands in New York and a few styling shoots for Vanity Fair and Neiman Marcus, “we worked really close with department stores like Saks, Bloomingdales, Barney’s, Bergdorf Goodman, and so you work with them and you’re finding things that work for the shoot. So it was a historical piece but more modernized, so how does Miss Hannigan from Annie: The Musical, relate to 2012… how do you showcase some historical aspects to today. So Prada mules and housecoats.”
And nonchalantly she name drops a few other stars whom she had the great privilege to work with, “And then I worked with you know, Alec Baldwin and Ryan Reynolds, Jeff Bridges.” Anna’s favourite experience was working with Alec Baldwin for the play Equus (2010) in the theatre company in the Hamptons, “A very well-to-do kinda class of people, you know whatever you see in the movies is true about the Hamptons, everyone wears white,” Anna sarcastically adds, “and I showed up wearing fluorescent pink, so it was a great day.” Alec Baldwin played the lead role, Dr. Martin Dysart a psychiatrist who treats a young man with a religious fascination of horses. Anna worked with a tailor to costume Baldwin in a suit that they built from scratch. “He’s great, he’s great, I’m like, I have a huge crush, HUGE crush.”
More notable work from Anna’s resume is the 2012 film, R.I.P.D, Taylor Swift’s tour, Red, the television series, Boardwalk Empire, and the 2012 film, Mirror Mirror. Anna still misses theatre work in New York and frequently flew back and forth in between teaching to work on plays, though she can no longer do that now, as she is pregnant and needs to relax.
Time flew by as Anna and I continued to talk about fashion and history but sadly, the interview came to an abrupt ending as it was almost time for class. I hope to further converse with Anna and pick her brain for more insights into the costume and fashion industry.
“When you’re a stylist you pull and when you design you create,” says Anna.