Decked out head-to-toe in the sharpest threads, sapeurs are the embodiment of elegance.
A sartorial subculture, which began in post-colonial times in the Democratic Republic of Congo, sapeurs take their name from SAPE, an acronym for ‘La Societé des Ambianceurs et Personnes Élégantes’, otherwise known as the ‘Society of Tastemakers and Elegant People.
Sapeurs ensure they’re always dressed in the most resplendent and fashionable attire. And now, this movement of people turning fashion into a cultural statement has evolved with the diaspora of Congolese communities around the world.
Fairfax Media visual journalist Ella Rubeli explores this colourful movement in tomorrow’s Good Weekend magazine with her multimedia feature of Isaac Kisimba and wife Justine Ndayi, who live in the Western Sydney suburb of Doonside with their six children.
Like many Congolese people, the couple have a fierce passion for high-fashion and style.
"Since leaving the Democratic Republic of the Congo and moving to Australia 11 years ago, Isaac - supported by his wife, friends and family - has been able to create a fashion following and dreams of starting a Sapeur festival,” explains Rubeli.
They’re not afraid to stand out – being bold and drawing attention to themselves is their unabashed objective. They want to share their passion and culture.
Family patriarch Isaac has over 100 fashion-forward suits in his collection. “From Versace bling to Chanel clothing and one-off suits, they spare no expense to look good and feel proud,” Rubeli says.
This love of outlandish fashion brings on a sense of confidence and pride, which Rubeli says the couple have passed on to their six children.
“When I first met Issac and Justine and their kids I found them to be the most passionate and effervescent people,” she says. “They’re not afraid to stand out – being bold and drawing attention to themselves is their unabashed objective. They want to share their passion and culture.
“The Congolese family and their friends are bringing a bit of extra charisma to the streets of Western Sydney.”
Read more about the family in tomorrow’s Good Weekend, published in The Age and Sydney Morning Herald.