Tears of Cavalli’s final companion: Playboy model Sandra Nilsson, 38, spent a decade by the side of her ‘favourite designer’, 83, who bought her a private island – and once she said she didn’t care about looks in a man

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Written By Maya Cantina

 

The fashion world has been left reeling following the death of design icon Roberto Cavalli, who died on Friday aged 83.

Yesterday, a host of celebrity mourners came to remember the legendary designer, as he was laid to rest in his home town of Florence.

Among them was his long-term girlfriend and Swedish former model Sandra Nilsson.

Sandra, 38, was photographed appearing bereft at the funeral, with one photo appearing to show her leaning in towards the hearse carrying her partner.

The couple, who had a 45-year age gap, had been in a relationship for more than 10-years, after getting together in 2014 – though some reports say Sandra had been seen at Roberto’s side as early as 2010 when he separated from his second wife.

Sandra Nilsson (pictured) appeared bereft at the funeral of her partner Roberto Cavalli, and appeared to lean towards his hearse

The couple (pictured) had been together for some 10 years, with most reports saying they got together in 2014, though one saying they were seen together as far back as 2010

The couple (pictured) had been together for some 10 years, with most reports saying they got together in 2014, though one saying they were seen together as far back as 2010  

Roberto, who had been divorced twice before his relationship with the former model, had six children.

The couple shared one child, a son who was born in March 2023, and named Giorgio, in honour of Roberto’s father.

While many know Sandra as the partner of Roberto, she enjoyed her own success working in the fashion industry.

Sandra was born in Sjöbo in southern Sweden, a tiny town she has described as ‘beautiful’ with a population of around 7,000 people.

She was discovered by a modelling agent aged 13 during a family holiday in Paris.

An agency called Clic asked her to model for them, but her parents said she was too young.

However, according to Sandra, she started when she was 15.

Her parents wanted her to wait until she graduated high school to get into the industry, but instead, after studying nursing at school, she started modelling while working as a personal assistant.

Sandra (pictured, right) was in a relationship with the designer for over a decade and shares one child with him

Sandra (pictured, right) was in a relationship with the designer for over a decade and shares one child with him

Sandra (pictured in New York in March 2008) enjoyed a successful career as a model in her own right, before her relationship with Roberto

Sandra (pictured in New York in March 2008) enjoyed a successful career as a model in her own right, before her relationship with Roberto

The couple (pictured during the Fashion Talks at the Vogue Fashion Dubai Experience in 2014) enjoyed a lavish lifestyle - with the designer even buying his partner her own island

The couple (pictured during the Fashion Talks at the Vogue Fashion Dubai Experience in 2014) enjoyed a lavish lifestyle – with the designer even buying his partner her own island

Among her career highlights, she was a competitor on Scandinavia’s Top Model and won several beauty contests, including Swedish Miss Hawaiian Tropic.

Her first win came when she was crowned Miss Salming, before participating in  Miss Siren, Miss EU, Miss World Bikini Model, and Miss Hawaiian. 

2006 saw Sandra voted ‘the seventh sexiest woman in Sweden’, then in 2008, she became Playboy magazine’s Playmate of the Month for January.

According to Sandra, her family supported her appearance in the publication, and ‘thought [she] looked amazing’ in the pictures. 

In an interview that year while at New York Fashion Week, the then-model shared some details about herself.

She said: ‘When I’m in New York I look for food and fashion – the fashion is wonderful in New York, especially now it’s fashion week.’

Sandra revealed she ‘loved seeing all the new collections’, as well as ‘all [her] friends who are in town’ for the event.

It has been reported that the couple faced criticism due to the 45-year age gap in their relationship, but they appeared unbothered by the cruel comments

It has been reported that the couple faced criticism due to the 45-year age gap in their relationship, but they appeared unbothered by the cruel comments

Sandra (pictured with Roberto in Dubai in 2014) once said in an interview that she did not care about looks in a man, rather she preferred he had a good personality

Sandra (pictured with Roberto in Dubai in 2014) once said in an interview that she did not care about looks in a man, rather she preferred he had a good personality

Describing herself as a vegetarian, she joked during the interview that while she doesn’t eat fish, she loves Swedish Fish chewy sweets. 

According to Sandra, the things she loved most about modelling was travelling and meeting people, as well as the clothes. 

Describing her own personal style as ‘cute and sexy’, she revealed that Roberto Cavalli was her favourite designer.    

However, in an interview several months earlier, she said she was single at that time, but did share what she looked for in a man.

She said: ‘I don’t think how he looks matter as long as he has a good personality.’

Adding her turn-offs in a man, she listed ‘if he smells bad and only talks about himself’. 

During the chat, the model also showed she has brains as well as looks, revealing that she speaks three languages though she only shared two of them – Swedish and English.

Despite her success as a glamour model in the late noughties, Sandra’s modelling career appeared to have waned by the time she and Roberto started dating.   

Because of the age gap between the two, it has been reported that the couple faced criticism when it was discovered that they were together.

Around that time, Sandra’s parents are reported to have told Swedish media that their daughter split her time between New York and Italy where she ‘works for Roberto Cavalli’. 

Sandra was accused by some of wanting to exploit the relationship for her own fame, however, the pair proved doubters wrong thanks to the longevity of their pairing. 

In addition, the criticism appeared to have little to no effect on the couple, who shared images of their life together on social media. 

Sandra and Roberto enjoyed an extremely lavish lifestyle, with the designer thought to be worth some $400 million.

Among his extravagant gestures, the designer bought Sandra a private island in Sweden in 2015.

He spent £2.22million on Stora Rullingen, off the coast of Strängnäs, some 50miles east of Stockholm.

‘She always dreamed of her own island,’ her father Jan-Ove Nilsson told Katrineholms Kuriren.

‘She wants something in Sweden to fall back on’.

The former model is photographed looking emotional as she follows the coffin of her partner Roberto Cavalli

The former model is photographed looking emotional as she follows the coffin of her partner Roberto Cavalli

The grieving girlfriend looks bereft as she is photographed outside the church ahead of the service

The grieving girlfriend looks bereft as she is photographed outside the church ahead of the service

Nilsson and other mourners wipe away their tears as they approach the entrance to the church

Nilsson and other mourners wipe away their tears as they approach the entrance to the church

Sandra (pictured at Roberto's funeral ceremony in Florence) shares one young child with the designer

Sandra (pictured at Roberto’s funeral ceremony in Florence) shares one young child with the designer

Sandra and other mourners are seen clapping as the coffin is carried into the church. Roberto died last week following a long illness

Sandra and other mourners are seen clapping as the coffin is carried into the church. Roberto died last week following a long illness

The 81.5 acre island comes complete with four-bedroom villa, hunting lodge, pool and the remains of a Viking hill fort as well as its own small golf course. It also boasts both a jacuzzi and a swimming pool built into the mountain.

It is not yet officially known what will happen to the designer’s fortune, though some reports have speculated that his assets will be divided between Sandra and his six children.

Roberto died at his home in Florence last week, following a long illness. 

Reporting on his death, his fashion house released an official statement that said: ‘It is with deep regret and a great sadness the Roberto Cavalli Maison participates in the passing of its founder Roberto Cavalli. From humble beginnings in Florence Mr. Cavalli succeeded in becoming a globally recognised name loved and respected by all.

‘He was a natural artist and believed that everyone can discover the artist within themselves. Roberto Cavalli’s legacy will live on via his art, his creativity his love of nature, animals and via his family whom he cherished.’

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