GUINNESS SHOWS US WHAT THEY’RE MADE OF
The Guinness “Made of More” campaign celebrates those who carve an extraordinary path out of the most ordinary or challenging of circumstances. Its latest instalment, Sapeurs introduces us to the stylish world of the “Society of Elegant Persons of the Congo” – a real group of exceptional gentlemen, drawn together by their love of elegant fashion and refined, gentlemanly conduct.
Hailing from Congo-Brazzaville, La Sape – as they’re known for short – have “a simple philosophy, to defy circumstance and live with joie de vivre”. The feature begins with dramatic shots of ordinary blue-collar workers making their way home through the sugar cane fields and streets of the Congo, to prepare for a night out in the local bar. Donning colourful pin-strip suits, watch fobs, waist coats and pocket squares, against a background of spartan simplicity, we watch as these average men transform into Sapeurs.
Once inside their local bar, La Sape begin literally strutting their stuff across the dance floor, to the amusement and admiration of their local community. As the rousing indie rock song, “What Makes a Good Man” by The Heavy swells, one of the Sapeurs quotes the dramatic conclusion to the 19th century poem, Invictus, “I am the master of my fate. I am the captain of my soul.” Known to have inspired the late Nelson Mandela, Invictus latin for “unconquered” is a fitting tribute, especially considering the new campaign was partially shot in South Africa and co-created by South African team, Nicholas Hulley and Nadja Lossgott from London agency AMV BBDO.
The accompanying documentary, “The Men Behind the Suits” was shot entirely in Brazzaville and directed by Hector Mediavilla – the man who first documented the Sapeurs back in 2003. This short film is not only enlightening, but somewhat necessary. Without it, one would be tempted to question the authenticity of this incredible tale of style over circumstance, fashion over function and triumph over adversity. With it, we are both reassured and uplifted by the history, the tradition, the optimism, the earnest dedication and the pure creativity of these remarkable individuals.
“The Sapeurs” is the forth instalment in Guinness’s “Made of More” campaign, which kicked off with “Cloud” back in October 2012, a charming piece that followed the travels of a rebellious little cloud that breaks away from the masses to make its own way in life. This was followed by “Clock”, the tale of a philanthropic town clock that alters time to enrich the lives of his fellow townspeople, and “Basketball” which depicts a group of able-bodied players engaged in a game of wheelchair basketball in solidarity with their disabled team mate.
This move to a more realistic, humane story elevates the campaign beyond mere expensive novelty, towards the real truth behind “Made of More” – the idea that we are more than sum of our circumstances. That, like The Sapeurs say, “It’s not the cost of the suit that counts. It’s the worth of the man inside it.” A sentiment that, even when aired against the backdrop of what is clearly a vast advertising budget, still manages to ring true for the campaign itself – a great idea, that just happens to be wrapped in an exceptionally beautiful and stylish production.