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Italian Fashion Brand Criticized for Disrespecting Japanese Culture

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Screenshot: Valentino

If you’ve ever been to Japan (and even if you haven’t), you are probably aware that shoes are a big deal—and specifically, taking them off. The bottoms of shoes are considered dirty for obvious reasons. Because of this, walking inside while wearing shoes is certainly frowned upon.

The cultural norms do not stop there. Walking on other things while wearing shoes is also seen as disrespectful, which is why a recent fashion ad by Italian brand Valentino is coming under fire in Japan.


The spot is for this year’s spring collection and is aimed at the Japanese market. It features Koki, the daughter of Japanese celeb Takuya Kimura, who previously starred in Sega’s Judgment and voiced Howl in Howl’s Moving Castle. Previously a member of the boy band SMAP, her father is one of the country’s biggest stars, and his daughter has begun modeling.


In the ad, Koki is shown walking and standing on an obi (kimono sash) while wearing high heels. If that wasn’t enough, the obi was also draped all over the ground outside. Both of these acts are considered disrespectful. Excite News, Tokyo Sports, and Get News reported there was an inevitable outcry. Below are a selection of comments:

“This is a discretion of Japanese culture.”

“I saw this and felt sick.”

“I can only feel that this is mocking Japanese culture and Japanese tradition. To think this is how a fashion brand, which is supposed to put great importance on fabric, treats an obi that was weaved by an artisan.”

“Walking all over this traditional Japanese garment is insulting.”

“So, walking on Valentino’s couture is okay, then?”

“An obi isn’t spread out like this. It’s rolled up.”

“It’s extremely unpleasant that a Japanese people would appear in production in which an obi is trampled on.”

“Ahhh, I’m really disappointed in Valentino.”

“It’s almost like walking all over the Japanese national flag.”

“How would they feel if Valentino’s clothing was spread out, sat on, and walked all over?”

“An obi is not a rug and it’s also not something to be tramped on.”

“What a terrible brand.”

There is also the opinion that Koki, who was simply the model, should not be blamed for the brand’s creative decisions.


Valentino has since removed the ad from both its official site as well as from its Instagram and YouTube.