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Friday, 21 March 2014

Société des Ambianceurs et des Personnes Élégantes - Congo Brazzaville

The Society for the Advancement of Elegant People


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The SAPE -- the Societe des Ambianceurs et des Personnes Elegantes, which loosely translates as the Society of Tastemakers, or Atmosphere Setters and Elegant People -- was born in neighbouring Congo-Brazzaville in the 1960s. But the roots of the African dandy tradition can be traced back to colonial times when locals first encountered elegant European styles.
The "sapeurs" initial idea was to sport clothes, shoes and accessories designed by the world's most venerated couturiers, the likes of Gaultier, Vuitton, Cerruti, Versace, Yamamoto, Miyake, Weston and Dolce&Gabbana.

But the dandies in the DR Congo have gone decidedly eccentric. - 'Clothes are living creatures'

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In the capital Kinshasa, where many of the 10 million residents earn barely enough to survive, thousands of confirmed or would-be "sapeurs" strut their stuff in hand-me-downs that often came from the Congolese diaspora, according to the artists' collective Sadi. But many expats are also struggling financially and can no longer fund the tastes of those back home, said art historian Lydia Nsambayi of the ISAM institute for applied arts in Kinshasa.

"So when the 'sapeurs' realised they could not maintain their lifestyle, they bought the brands in thrift shops or mixed their own creations with Yamamoto, for example." Some turned to ready-to-wear, such as Spain's successful clothing and accessories retailer Zara. Others created their own line, like Mbengi with his "100% Paper" brand or Bwapwa Kumeso, who in 2009 created "Kadhitoza", or "The Beautiful Creature" in the language of the Chokwe ethnic group which is spoken in the country's south.


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2 comments:

  1. I have always admired this little subculture but that documentary clip was extraordinary!!? Love them so much more now.

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  2. Great documentary - almost too short!

    ReplyDelete