Funeral services were held Thursday at St. Mary Catholic Church in Burlington, Wis., for fashion showroom owner Santiago “Jim” Villa.
Villa, 50, died Aug. 16 at Long Island Jewish Forest Hills Hospital. The cause of death could not be immediately learned. A public memorial service will be held in his honor on Aug. 28 at 6 p.m. on the rooftop at Showroom Seven in New York.
A native of Eagle Pass, Tex., Villa grew up with his family in Burlington, where he started working as a model at the age of 10. After graduating from Burlington High School, Villa attended the International Academy of Design in Chicago and studied fashion design at the University of Wisconsin at Madison. After starting his career in South American textiles, he then spent some time on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange before moving to New York.
In the fall of 2008, he opened his own company in an airy 6,000-square-foot space in The Terminal Warehouse building in Chelsea. Through his travels to Europe, Villa discovered, and in some cases acquired, up-and-coming European designers. At the time of his death, his company represented such designer brands as Plein Sud, Delpozo, Maria Lucia, Hoan, Lana Mueller and Pink Magnolia. Villa was also the U.S. agent and importer of Herve Leroux, Plein Sud Jeanius, CLASS Roberto Cavalli, AMEN, Nigel Preston & Knight, Genny, Roberta di Camerino, Mila Schon, Nue 19.04 Paris and Gaetano Navarra. Villa’s extensive travels stemmed from offering clients his services in sales, distribution, fashion merchandising, product development and licensing. Off-hours, he often continued to travel and when at home cultivated his interests in cooking and gardening, often with his dog, Paloma, in tow.
“We are very sorry to hear of the passing of Jim Villa,” Pedro Trolez, owner and president of Delpozo, said. “Jim was one of the first supporters of Delpozo and we will always be thankful for [his] believing in the project since the beginning. On behalf of all the Delpozo team we send our deepest condolences to his family and friends.”
Before starting his own company, Villa worked for five years at Richard Tyler as director of sales. Earlier in his career, he also worked as director of sales of Y-yigal by Yigal Azrouël, and prior to that he held the same post at Plein Sud.
Villa is survived by his father, Jimmy, and two brothers, Gabriel and Henry.