Dessert served to Japanese prime minister in Tom Dixon shoe

A solid aluminium cast of one of Tom Dixon's brogues has caused an awkward diplomatic faux pas during an official visit by the Japanese prime minister to Israel.

The cast aluminium shoe – a staple of the British designer's home accessories collection – was used by celebrity Israeli chef Segev Moshe to serve chocolate pralines during a dinner at the official residence of Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife, Sara.

The creative presentation featured a selection of pralines arranged on a napkin that was stuffed inside the metal shoe.

Netanyahu's guests, the Japanese prime minister Shinzō Abe and his wife, Akie, may have been unimpressed by the gesture. In Japan it is customary to leave shoes outside the door of the house and putting a shoe on the table is considered to be highly disrespectful.

A post shared by segevmoshe (@segevmoshe) on

The incident at the dinner, which took place in Jerusalem during an official visit to Israel by the Japanese leader, has been widely reported.

According to the Times of Israel, a senior Israel diplomat who had served in Japan told Hebrew-language newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth that the unusual choice of tableware was "a dumb and insensitive decision".

"There is nothing more despicable in Japanese culture than a shoe," the diplomat said. "Not only do they not enter their homes in shoes, you won’t find any shoes in their bureaus.

"Even the prime minister, ministers, and members of parliament, host in their bureaus without shoes," the diplomat continued. "This is a failure and a diplomatic mockery. A disrespect of the highest order. It is like giving a Jewish guest chocolate inside a vessel in the shape of a pig."

The newspaper also reported that a second unidentified Japanese diplomat said: "There is no culture in the world where you put shoes on a table. What exactly did the illustrious chef Segev think to himself?"

"We can’t understand what he was trying to say here. If it is humor then we don’t think it is funny. I can tell you we were offended on behalf of our prime minister."

Tom Dixon shoe
The desert was served in a shoe made of solid aluminium designed by Tom Dixon. Image courtesy of Tom Dixon

The offending design is a replica of Dixon's own trademark English Gentleman's brogues. Cast in solid aluminium and finished with a black powder coating, the shoes are more typically used as door stops, bookends, or for simple decoration.

Dixon, who is the highest-placed designer on Dezeen Hotlist 2017 at number 39, recently relocated his brand's showroom and offices to a Victorian coal yard in London's King's Cross.