By and  on October 23, 2006

SHANGHAI — "Just coming and seeing everything was the best part, getting to see the cities and how they are so ancient but also very modern, so there is a contrast," remarked Donatella Versace regarding her inaugural trip to China this week. "People here are very curious, and want to see you, touch you. They don't trust something or someone until they've talked to you, but once you've established that personal contact, they are very warm."

Versace was in Shanghai for two days and in Greater China for a total of six, holding parties and press conferences at each stop. The latter were held to reveal plans for an ambitious expansion of Versace's China presence, investing 10 million euros, or $12.5 million, to grow from five stores to 14 by the end of 2007. "We're expanding now because we're ready to invest here now, because the figures tell us the market is now ready."

For the designer, the visit was as much a personal as a commercial exploration of the Middle Kingdom. "I came because I'd never been before, and I've always been curious about China," she said. "It has a fantastic culture, and the economic boom has resulted in amazing energy and creativity. You see it in the emerging Chinese young artists. While some are obviously inspired by others, some are truly original. There is a distinct Chinese sense of modernity, different from Western modernity."

Versace, Giancarlo Di Risio, chief executive officer of Gianni Versace SpA and their staff arrived on Oct. 15 in Beijing, where they visited landmarks like Tiananmen Square, the For­bidden City and the Temple of Heaven. Italian ambassador to China Gabriele Menegatti threw a party for Versace at his official residence on Oct. 16. Celebrity guests included Chinese actress Fan Bingbing, Nineties folk singer Ai Jing and contemporary artist Zheng Fangzhi. They were joined by Hong Huang, publisher of the Chinese editions of Time Out; Yabshi Pan Rinzinwangmo, daughter of Tibet's 10th Panchen Lama, and models Lu Yan and Ma Yanli.

The following day, Versace proceeded to Shanghai to attend an exclusive dinner at the Shanghai home of Pearl Lam, a Hong Kong socialite and owner of the Contrasts design gallery, which has locations in Hong Kong, Shanghai, Beijing and Hangzhou. Co-hosted by Vogue China editor in chief Angelica Cheung, guests included models, Shanghai soccer star Huai Xie, several directors of Vogue's various Asian editions, Shanghai socialite Nora Sun and Taiwanese socialites Landy Lin and Tiffany Yang.

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