Excerpts from the pictorial book Gentlemen of Bacongo (2009) by Daniele Tamagni:
“The Société des Ambianceurs et des Personnes Élégantes, otherwise known as La SAPE, is one of the world’s most exclusive clubs. Members have their own code of honour, codes of professional conduct and strict notions of morality.”
“In the Congo ‘elegance’ is very important. Perhaps in no other country is a sense of style so crucially identified with its own cultural history. A significant part of this heritage is the ‘Sape’ and the ‘Sapeurs’ (Society for the Advancement of People of Elegance) from the French ‘Societé des Ambianceurs et des Personnes Élegantes’.”
“La Sape has recently become an international phenomenon, with branches in place like Brazzaville, Kinshasa, Paris, Brussels, and parts of South London. At the heart of this exclusive world is the cult of the cloth; the deity of style and fashion. Adherents of the Sape have a style unlike any other. The clothes worn by ‘Sapeurs’ (as the followers of La Sape are known) may look familiar but the way they wear them isn’t. The sapeur style and relationship to clothes is completely unique. It is at once a throwback to a lost world of pre-colonial elegance and decadence. At the same time it is also futuristic and even a little freakish given the extremity of the urban conditions in which many of the Sapeurs live, particularly in the Congo. La Sape is a movement of contradictions and paradoxes.”
Daniele Tamagni’s pictorial book Gentlemen of Bacongo provides a look into La Sape. Speaking to the communicative power fashion holds, La Sape members or ‘Sapeurs’ indicate membership to this subculture through style. This book is awesome, for lack of a better word! I find the juxtaposition between the brightly coloured suits of the Sapeurs and their environment to be visually striking. I can’t help but see the sartorial similarities between the Sapeurs and the boys of Street Etiquette. See below!
Now look at the boys of Street Etiquette …
Maybe Solange Knowles was inspired by the Sapeurs for her latest video …
Buy the book here.
See more images here.