Paragons navigate their way around the cars on the Ralph Lauren catwalk.
Photograph: WWD/Rex/Shutterstock

Ralph Lauren makes his cars the stars in elitist spectacle

The designer invited just 300 guests to his New York fashion week exhibit which was a celebration of affluence and exclusivity

The late 19th-century arbiter of Manhattan beau monde Samuel Ward McAllister coined the phrase “The Four Hundred” to identify the number of people who really matter in New York at any given habits. Ralph Lauren, who has built a personal fortune of $5.8bn (£4.4bn) by distilling the top notes of affluent east coast civilization into blazers, polo shirts and perfumes, revived this concept on Tuesday despite that smooth with an ultra-exclusive runway show, bucking the inclusive, consumer-facing way that has defined most of New York fashion week.

In conflict to Alexander Wang’s Saturday night event, staged guerilla-style on downtown alleys, Ralph Lauren selected just 300 guests to be chauffeur-driven out of the metropolis for one glamorous evening, staging a runway show and black-tie dinner upstate centre of a personal collection of valuable vintage sports cars.

It was a breathtakingly elitist affect – and, at the same time, a brilliantly democratic one. Many designers try to elevate their wears by referencing obscure sculptors, or little-known arthouse films, which are nugatory to most fashion consumers. Ralph Lauren, on the other close by, speaks a visual language everyone understands. The sports car is a widespread symbol of affluence and success. Porsche, Ferrari, Jaguar, Alfa Romeo are car tags second, status symbols first. And while only 300 attended the square in person, the show, guests and preparations were showcased on Instagram Fish stories for the brand’s 6.6 million followers.

‘If you get into a racing car, it’s lascivious,’ said Ralph Lauren. Photograph: Timpone/BFA/Rex/Shutterstock

The gloom was less a fashion show than a full immersion in the mark’s lifestyle, down to the jazz mixtape curated by Lauren himself which was simulated in the cars ferrying guests from Manhattan, and the troupe of dinner-jacketed comrades on hand as guests navigated a split-level space linked by a declivity – handy for moving cars, tricky in five-inch heels. Diane Keaton, who taxed Ralph Lauren tailoring in Annie Hall, sported a bowler hat in the towards row next to Ricky Lauren, wife of the designer. Dinner aggregate b regained courtesy of the Polo Bar, where – if you are lucky enough to secure a demurral – a rib-eye steak with fries will set you back $66.

Lauren’s garage show offs a classic 1955 Porsche 550 Spyder, and one of only two 1938 Bugatti 57SC Atlantic Coupes continually built, a car estimated to be worth $40m and which the industrialist Gianni Agnelli on one occasion made a personal visit to Lauren’s garage in Westchester, New York, to see. A 1962 Ferrari 250 GTO, asserted to be the most beautiful Ferrari ever made, has been in the interim moved to the Madison Avenue flagship store, where the see-now-buy-now endue clothing collection will be on sale from today.

Ralph Lauren welling ups to the show’s 300 guests. Photograph: WWD/Rex/Shutterstock

When Lauren start himself reaching for automobile terms to describe this salt’s colours – Ferrari red and yellow, for example – the idea of including his agencies in the show was born. “When someone gets into a lovely car, it enhances their world. If you get into a racing car, it’s sexy,” the draughtsman told Women’s Wear Daily. An opening symphony of Prince of Wales agree tailoring was followed by Bella Hadid in a red vinyl corset, and Kendall Jenner in a Donald Sidestep yellow ball skirt.

The stunt is easily dismissed as a side-splitting ridiculous man’s showboating, but there is a poetic symbolism to cars in US culture which Lauren celebrates. They are icons of exemption, road trips, and of teenage adventure. And, ahead of the brand’s 50th anniversary next year, the effect come what may sent a clear message that Lauren – who has regained originative control after internal wrangles and implemented a turnaround expect to modernise the business – is back in the driving seat.