At Citayam Fashion Week, Jakarta’s budget fashionistas get their turn on the catwalk


Muhamad Rizqi’s catwalk is a zebra crossing, with traffic lights instead of spotlights.

As he struts for the cameras in stilettos, a skin-tight polka-dot jumpsuit and trench coat, the applause of Jakarta’s glitterati crowded on the footpaths is mixed with the sound of honking horns from passing cars.

Citayam Fashion Week — an organic fashion phenomenon based around a crosswalk near the Dukuh Atas station and park area in Central Jakarta — is the hot new thing in Indonesia’s capital, and Muhamad is one of its stars.

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“At first when I looked on social media, I thought, what is this place? Why are these people going there?” the 21-year-old told the ABC.

“But after I went there, it turned out that the people, even though they just met, were friendly and fun, the interactions were beyond what was seen on social media.”

However, many in conservative Indonesia — including some in government — are not fans of Muhamad’s style.

Picture of crowds of people on a street taken from a distance.
Dukuh Atas is a major transport hub linking Central Jakarta with the outer metropolitan area.(Supplied: Albert Sumilat/RCTI+)

From youth hangout spot to viral fashion trend

Dukuh Atas is a transport hub in Jakarta’s CBD where trains from the outer suburbs like Citayam, Bogor, and Bekasi meet with the city’s bus lines and other routes.

The provincial government redeveloped the area in 2019, creating a public park, pedestrianising a road and building a skate park.

It’s one of the few places in greater Jakarta with public open space. About nine per cent of central Jakarta is public open green space while outer areas like Citayam and Bekasi are about 6 to 7 per cent.

In comparison, Sydney is 46 per cent green open space.

A long shot photo of an open public space with skate park and park, in front of some skyscrapers.
The Dukuh Atas area was redeveloped in 2019 to create a public park. (Supplied: Pius Erlangga/ Media Indonesia)

The name Citayam Fashion Week — it’s not a “week” as such — started out as a tongue-in-cheek label for the custom of less-well-off young people from outer-Jakarta areas like Citayam to dress up and go to Dukuh Atas to hang out.

Sometimes they would pretend the crosswalk was a catwalk, and post interviews with each other on TikTok.

A teenage boy in a purple t-shirt looks at the camera against the background of the station entrance.
Alpin said making friends at Dukuh Atas was much easier than out in Citayam.(Supplied)

It’s not just the young fashionistas who made a home there.

Citayam teenager Muhammad Naifin Ilham  — who goes by the nickname Alpin — found a niche posting Citayam Fashion Week videos on social media.

Alpin said he didn’t have any friends until he started going there, but now has more than 18,000 followers on TikTok.

“I’ve managed to get new friends, a lot of them,” he said.

A man  with curly big hair, beard and moustache, wearing brown jacket and red leather jacket and glasses, posing to the camera.
Oki Rahadianto Sutopo said the teenagers at Dukuh Atas had found an outlet for self-expression. (Supplied)

Oki Rahadianto Sutopo, director of the Youth Studies Centre at Gadjah Mada University, said Citayam Fashion Week was an avenue for self-expression.

“These young people are trying to become an agent of themselves,” he said.

“Especially those who come from areas that are relatively outskirts, which maybe doesn’t look as good as the city centre.”

Dr Sutopo said Citayam Fashion Week had allowed young people from less-privileged areas to access a more cosmopolitan lifestyle.

“They can buy thrifted things that don’t cost much, find their styles, and make content on TikTok as if they participate in the ‘cool’ urban culture,” he said.

He said Citayam Fashion Week could have some positive side effects.

Its virality and popularity could “highlight more crucial values, such as lack of public spaces, social gaps, environmental issues, pluralism, multiculturalism”.

“But this becomes a challenge in Indonesia where things that go viral are often monetised or used for political gains,” he said.

Four women wearing colourful hijab walking in zebra crossing.
People from all walks of life have flocked to Dukuh Atas to participate in the trend. (Supplied: Nanin Basuki)

‘Hara-dukuh’ the new place to be seen

After the teenagers’ TikTok videos went viral, people from almost all walks of life — from ordinary citizens to state officials and politicians— wanted to participate in the trend.

Indonesia’s Minister of Tourism Sandiaga Uno started referring to Dukuh Atas as “Hara-dukuh”, in reference to Tokyo’s iconic street fashion hub Harajuku.

Four men in blue suits with a woman wearing a white blazer, walk in parallel at the zebra crossing smiling at the camera.
Jakarta Governor Anies Baswedan invited four finance officials from the EU to join Citayam Fashion Week.(Supplied: Jakarta Provincial Office)

Last month the Governor of Jakarta, Anies Baswedan, invited the visiting EU Ambassador Vincent Piket and European Investment Bank vice-president Kris Peeters, to cross the zebra crossing.

“I had the chance to try the SCBD-style catwalk in Dukuh Atas. The conclusion is: none of us are as cool as them, we don’t deserve to go on the catwalk,” wrote Mr Baswedan in an Instagram post.

“Next time we will only be spectators and admirers.”

Two men and a woman, walking, wearing casual clothes with orange coloured attributes.
Citayam Fashion Week’s popularity has turned Citayam teenagers like “Roy”, Siti Kurma and “Bonge” into fashion celebrities.(Supplied: Instagram @citayamfashionweek)

Some of the Citayam teenagers have been offered product endorsement deals and collaborations with local fashion brands.

Siti Kurma, one of the Citayam Fashion Street icons, said she was now earning between $200 and $1,000 per day.

“I didn’t expect my child to go viral like this. Thank God, hopefully it would elevate our dignity, we can buy a motorbike, buy a car,” said her mother, Dina, in an interview with a local television station.

“I was touched to get that much money from my daughter … I bought gold rings and bracelets.”

Copycat events have even started to spring up outside Jakarta.

A man posing to the camera, wearing crop black shirt but long sleeves, showing his belly and half of his back.
Muhamad Rizqi understands his choice of dress is not to everyone’s taste.(Supplied)

Conservative backlash against ‘LGBT campaign’

Muhamad Rizqi said participating in the impromptu fashion parades and the community that has formed around them was not just great fun.

He said it had helped him discover a passion for modelling and hoped it could lead to a professional career.

“I feel that this is my place and it’s also an opportunity for me to achieve success,” he said.

However, Citayam Fashion Week has some powerful critics who have criticised it for “promoting LGBT”.

“We are obliged to protect children from LGBT campaigns, including at Citayam Fashion Week,” said Jakarta’s Deputy Governor, Ahmad Riza Patria.

The head of the Central Jakarta Social Service, Abdul Salam, told the media that he would “take action against men who dress like women at Citayam Fashion Week” because they were categorised as having “social welfare problems”.

A man walking straight to the camera doing fashion show, wearing black shirt and blue jacket and pants.
Muhamad Rizqi has already received offers to work as a model for up to $100 per day.(Supplied)

Muhamad, whose photos are often used as a reference in the accusations, said he was not campaigning for anything.

“To be honest I’m really sad … and I’m not trying to promote any group at all,” he said.

“I do realise that Indonesia may not be ready for the fashion I wear, but I try to be honest with myself, try to love myself … although I already know the consequences, I still want to give it a try,” he said.

Two teenagers wearing t-shirt and jeans and a man wearing long sleves shirt and short pants, walking in zebra crossing.
The outfits that started Citayam Fashion Week were more like traditional streetwear. (Supplied: Nanin Basuki)



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