There are places and events which remain in the collective imaginary for eternity: La Tour Eiffel; the Northern Lights; il Colosseo; Cirque du Soleil; Rio de Janeiro’s Carnival; Wimbledon.
Some are better known in certain circles, like motorsport and automotive shows: Goodwood Festival of Speed (UK); Villa d’Este (Italy); the Monterey weekend (California).
But what do they have in common?
Passion, for a start: some architectonic masterpieces and venues may have objective beauty on their side, but it is always the people involved which make an event, or a place, memorable. Building memories takes time, and so does developing and nurturing an annual ‘luxury lifestyle’ party.
London-based Salon Privé (literally, “private room”) is therefore anything but ‘private’. It is a public party, which retains the Privé aura only insomuch as it is open to a select number of guests, who come to share in the delights of special, rare and usually expensive motorcars and other objets d’art.
Two main challenges arise from a summer party of this magnitude: one, the practical matter of organising the event itself. Managing those involved, finding the ideal backdrop, persuading classic and supercar owners as well as luxury brands to participate, creating the perfect blend of desire and attainment, dealing with pedestrian needs such as food and drink by lifting them to the status of premium entertainment (lobster and champagne, of course)… these are all activities which weave the very fabric, but – on their own – do not make the outfit.
The second challenge is infusing an event with the personality it needs. To become THE summer party of the year, in a country as sophisticated as the UK and in a city as demanding and spoilt for entertainment as London, a luxury social event must involve its guests on an individual level, either by proxy (hence the success of shows such as Goodwood Festival of Speed, where spectators enjoy, ‘second hand’, the fun had by those who race, or ogle celebrities at the same event) or directly, by stimulating the guests’ interest and passions.
Salon Privé makes no excuses about being privé in its deliverance. The entrance price is high, but so are the stakes. There is nothing democratic or tugging at the family heartstrings. You won’t find a single merry-go-round or helter-skelter on the beautifully manicured lawns of Syon House, where, incidentally, the event moved last year, after a longish relationship with the Hurlingham Club (which – ironically – does have a private playground for the members’ children).
Salon Privé talks the language of luxury with a cut-glass accent; and why shouldn’t it? It has spotted a niche, an empty corner in the confusing and crowded room of events, shows and festivals. It has taken seven years to turn that corner into something unique and handcrafted.
True, there are no straw bales at Syon House to protect the public from the dangers of motorsport. There are no smoking tyres, no smell of Castrol R. Then again, it is hard to see any racing or real action from behind those straw bales and the crowds elsewhere: therefore, the only true enjoyment ultimately belongs to those who race, and spectators may just partake in the atmosphere.
That’s where Salon Privé excels: there is plenty of atmosphere, and it is all created and nurtured by the people involved. It is secluded, yet real and close; exclusive, yet easy to touch, see, and talk to.
As it branches out, and its Concours d’Elégance transmogrifies into a 21-mile Tour d’Elégance, a moving tableau of exceptional metal which then settles back again into a catwalk of vintage beauty, Salon Privé gets another step closer to belonging to the collective imaginary. Our very own Villa d’Este.
Credits: Images of Harriadnie Beau Phipps courtesy of Max Machu Photography.