The princess and the platforms: how these Gucci trainers became a symbol of excess

If Marie Antoinette had lived in the Snapchat age, would she be wearing £640 Gucci platform trainers? That is the question on everyone’s lips today, as we survey the fallout from Crown Prince Pavlos and Princess Olympia of Greece’s joint 50th and 21st birthday party.

In case you missed it, the pair threw a bash at an 18th-century manor house in the Cotswolds, and it was pretty relaxed. Just a few dozen viscounts, the queen of Holland, King Felipe of Spain, some Delevingnes, some Hiltons and a man intriguingly referred to by the Daily Mail as a “society osteopath”.

Given the mess that the Greek economy is in, and the fact that Greece doesn’t actually have a royal family, photographs of the world’s wealthiest doing the conga around gold-plated pineapples and pyramids of macaroons haven’t gone down brilliantly on social media. But the standout symbols of the furore were fashion-based: Olympia’s trainers, which were centre-frame in countless social media posts, owing to the cunning deployment of a series of Instagram-friendly chorus-line-leg-bend poses.

Here’s what we know about the shoes. They are gold nappa leather overlaid with the Gucci brand’s red-and-green striped logo. They have an 8.5cm foam rainbow platform. They were part of Gucci’s 2017 Resort collection, which was presented in Westminster Abbey, and it’s a bit of a shame, in a way, that they have become a symbol of the excesses of the super-rich, given that Gucci creative director Alessandro Michele conceived of them with the best of intentions.

The earnest Walter Benjamin-quoting designer – the man behind the “geek chic” renaissance at the Italian superbrand – made them as a homage to Britain, taking inspiration from club-kid platforms of the 90s and the creepers of the New Romantic era. There was speculation that they had also been designed in honour of gay pride, which would be very on-brand for the new Gucci, which delights in celebrating inclusivity in its explorations of gender-fluid fashion and ethnically diverse cast of muses and models. Still. They do cost 640 quid. Which is quite a lot, even in the ever-escalating world of high-end trainers.

The fact that trainers have recently become part of the fashion vernacular has inspired a rash of unbelievably costly styles. On sale right now are studded Christian Louboutin high tops for £1,995, appliqued denim plimsolls by Valentino for £770, Rick Owens high tops for £697 and Giuseppe Zanotti mid-tops for £950, which feels a bit unnecessary given that the Reebok Club C85 – on sale for about £40 – has recently been hailed as the fashion trainer of the season.

These are not for the sneaker-heads, either, who seek out exclusive trainer styles, not expensive embellishment. For dedicated hypebeasts the holy grail is the drop of cult, limited edition kicks, such as the Yeezy Boost by Kanye West, which sell for about £150 and resell on eBay for upwards of £350. Instead, these are trainers designed for the feet of the super-rich, which must be always swathed in precious skins and diamante.

Though there is the one style that unites the trainer nerds and the billionaires: the Vetements x Reebok Instapump Fury, a model that quickly sold out despite its $760 (£586) price tag. These are squishy, oversized 90s trainers covered in meaningful doodles – “I’m bored”; “no future”; “minority” – something you could try at home with a pair of clean Reebok Instapump Furys (£87.46) and a felt tip pen if you are feeling creative. Plenty of fashion fans on a budget this season already have, which feels a lot less daft than dropping the price of a sofa on a pair of trainers.