Photos for Valentino showing Japanese model Koki walking in high heels on a traditional obi kimono belt, and wearing shoes inside, have whipped up a storm of social media criticism amid accusations the luxury Italian fashion house was “trampling on” Japanese culture. The images, part of a promotional shoot for the Milan-headquartered company’s Japan spring/summer 2021 collection ‘Valentino Collezione Milano for Women’, show Koki sitting on an obi , which is traditionally made of the same material as a kimono and worn as a broad sash around the waist. Other pictures show Koki, famous both as a model and for being the daughter of former boy band heartthrob Takuya Kimura of SMAP, walking on the obi in high-heel shoes and wearing shoes inside a home - a major faux pas in Japanese culture. Japanese people never lay kimono obi on the ground or step on it with their feet!! This image is exactly the Cultural Appropriation by foreigners!!! (Many Japanese don't care that foreigners wear kimono.) #VALENTINO pic.twitter.com/c84guop9H7 — uzume (@_uzume__) April 1, 2021 Social media erupted in outrage in response to the campaign, with one Twitter user declaring that seeing an obi being trodden on for a photo shoot “seems to burn in many ways”. “This is not limited to Japan, but you should not trample on or handle traditional items of clothing roughly,” the person said in a tweet translated by SoraNews24. “This makes me feel as if Japanese culture is being trampled on,” another irate commenter added, while a third said: “It’s like walking on a Valentino dress with shoes on. How would they feel about that?”, according to SoraNews24. Nike ad on racism, bullying sparks debate in Japan over foreign criticism Valentino was quick to respond to the criticism, immediately withdrawing the photos and video from their official website and social media accounts. An apology was also issued, in both Japanese and English, stating the shots “unintentionally feature the model sitting or stepping on a Japanese fabric which recalls a traditional obi and involves her wearing shoes on the doorstep or inside a Japanese traditional home”. “The fabric unwittingly resembles the Japanese traditional obi and Maison Valentino deeply apologises for any offence caused,” it said. Valentino is a racist company that makes Japanese models trample over Japanese national dress "Obi (Kimono sash)" #StopAsianHate #Valentino pic.twitter.com/EJpDrZ4wxm — Ann (@Ann142v65d) March 30, 2021 The statement added that the company is committed to “nurturing a culture of inclusion on a global scale” and that it “would like to turn this event into a powerful learning moment for the brand and its community”. That apology has proved inadequate for some, however, on the grounds that it appears to sidestep the issue by claiming the item in the photo shoot “recalls” an obi and that its use was “unintentional”. “This ‘apology’ is just adding fuel to the fire,” said one message on social media, also translated by SoraNews24. “This isn’t good enough – this is not an apology. I loved this brand but I’m so shocked I’ll never buy from them again,” said another. Not just Dolce & Gabbana: five other brands that riled Chinese consumers Valentino was accused of lacking respect for Japanese culture by one Twitter user, who suggested that it would never have attempted a similar photo shoot with clothing or items that are important to Islamic culture. Misha Janette, a Tokyo-based fashion critic and blogger, said she was shocked at the images. “As soon as I saw the pictures, I got the impression that the creative team behind the shoot just really failed to understand,” she told This Week In Asia . “I regularly work on photo shoots and I’m constantly talking with the assistants just to make sure that what we are doing is appropriate and acceptable.” “That’s part of the job and I find it hard to believe they failed to do that on this occasion,” she said. “It’s not surprising that this has caused such offence and it was certainly a strange decision.” The company has apologised and to then criticise that apology is, I think,taking things too far Misha Janette, Tokyo-based fashion critic and blogger Janette said she was less understanding of the continued criticism of Valentino’s apology, pointing out that the company responded quickly and was fulsome in its expression of regret. “What else could they realistically have done in this situation?” she asked. “The company has apologised and to then criticise that apology is, I think, taking things too far.” Valentino is not alone among Milan-headquartered Italian luxury fashion houses in having caused controversy with ad campaigns deemed culturally offensive in recent years. In 2018, Dolce & Gabbana was condemned in China for a series of adverts featuring a Chinese model using chopsticks to eat pizza, spaghetti and the Italian dessert cannoli, prompting accusations of racism. The situation worsened when Stefano Gabbana, the co-founder of the company, described China as “a country of s***”. Brand ambassadors and models swiftly announced they would no longer work with the company and a major show in Shanghai was cancelled , while stores and online retailers in China and Hong Kong dropped the brand. Other companies that have antagonised their client base include Paris-based Balenciaga, which was accused of racial discrimination at one of its French outlets, German fashion designer Philipp Plein, Christian Dior and Japanese cosmetics brand Pola, which was targeted after a sign appeared on the door of one its shops saying Chinese people were not permitted to enter the store. * This article has been updated to reflect that some translations were provided by SoraNews24.