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BEIJING (Reuters Life!) - Italian luxury brand Versace put on a glitzy and glamorous first fashion show in China on Thursday a stone's throw from Beijing's central Tiananmen Square, raising more than $100,000 for charity.
Using only Chinese models on a circular runway similar to one used at Milan events, Versace chose one of Beijing's most fashionable new addresses for the show, the Legation Quarter, home to the U.S. embassy in the final days of imperial China.
"What appeals to me is the energy in China, especially in this city Beijing. There are a lot of young people, creative people, a lot of art -- it's very inspiring," design head and vice president Donatella Versace told Reuters.
"Chinese people like luxury brands," added Donatella, looking resplendent in a shimmering, figure-hugging black dress and towering black stiletto shoes.
Versace displayed its spring/summer 2009 collection at the show, which had previously debuted in Milan, in front of an elite audience of socialites, executives and celebrities, including Chinese and Hollywood action star Jet Li.
Donatella said she would like to make China a regular stop on Versace's fashion show calendar.
"If the economic crisis permits, yes I'll come every year," she told reporters ahead of the show.
"I have to say that doing it here in Beijing has been amazing because of the enthusiasm," Donatella added. "I think the Chinese people love fashion -- that's what I can feel."
Versace, whose glamorous gowns cost thousands of euros, also auctioned off a diamond watch and chance to visit the company in Milan, among other things, raising 690,000 yuan ($101,100) for survivors of May's huge earthquake in China's Sichuan province.
And while other marques have altered their look to appeal to the world's most populous country, Donatella said that they had noticed no difference in Chinese tastes compared with other places in the world.
"It is no different at all because when I think of the collections I think of the global woman, especially the global businesswoman. I think of this woman as very elegant," she added.
The fashion house, owned by Donatella, her brother Santo and her daughter Allegra, is eyeing Asia and booming China in particular to help it ride out the current global economic crisis.
Chief Executive Giancarlo Di Risio said earlier in the week that Versace expects to make Asia its second biggest market in terms of turnover after Europe by the end of next year.
Versace is investing 45 million euros ($56.09 million) to strengthen its presence in Asia and is opening 11 new stores this year.
"China is a strategic country for the company. We are really focusing on China," Donatella said.
Additional reporting by Hanna Rantala, editing by Paul Casciato