MILAN — Wanda Garavani-Villani, the elder sister of Valentino and chief of personnel at the designer’s fashion house, died of a heart attack in Paris on Monday. She was 72.
“Wanda was an integral part of the Valentino family and was crucial in helping us build this house,” said Giancarlo Giammetti, Valentino’s business partner and chief executive officer of Valentino SpA.
“She was like a sister to me,” he added, “and she will be sorely missed.”
Giammetti said Valentino’s first-ever design was for his sister’s wedding dress, featured in the designer’s book “Thirty Years of Magic.”
Garavani-Villani was born in Voghera, in northern Italy, in 1925.
In the late Fifties, she followed her brother to Rome to help him set up the fashion house. As the years passed, she became a mother figure for many of Valentino’s employees, dispensing advice and serving as a direct link to the designer. She also personally oversaw the work of the seamstresses in Valentino’s atelier.
“She was a warm, caring person and always ready to offer help. Employees could always rely on her,” a company spokesman said.
During her career, Garavani-Villani was also active in LIFE, the charity created by Valentino and Giammetti to help children suffering from AIDS.
At the time of her death, Garavani-Villani was in Paris for the spring-summer 1998 ready-to-wear collections.
In addition to her brother, she is survived by two sons, Piero and Mauro Villani.
A funeral will be held on Friday in Rome; no further details on the services were immediately available.

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