Muhamad Rizqi’s walkway is a zebra crossing, with traffic lights instead of floodlights.
As he struts for the cameras in stiletto heels, a tight polka dot jumpsuit and a trench coat, the applause of Jakarta sequins piled up on the sidewalks mingles with the sound of horns from passing cars.
Citayam Fashion Week – an organic fashion phenomenon based around a pedestrian crossing near Dukuh Atas station and park in central Jakarta – is the new trend in the Indonesian capital, and Muhamad is one of its stars.
“At first, when I looked on social media, I was like, what is this place? Why are these people going there?” the 21-year-old told the ABC.
“But after going there it turned out that the people, even though they had just met, were friendly and fun, the interactions were beyond what you see on social media.”
However, many in conservative Indonesia – including some in government – are not fans of Muhamad’s style.
From youth hangout to viral fashion trend
Dukuh Atas is a transportation hub in Jakarta’s CBD where trains from outer suburbs like Citayam, Bogor, and Bekasi meet city bus lines and other routes.
The provincial government redeveloped the area in 2019, creating a public park, pedestrianizing a road, and building a skate park.
It is one of the few places in greater Jakarta with an open public space. About 9% of central Jakarta is public open green space, while outer areas like Citayam and Bekasi make up about 6-7%.
By comparison, Sydney has 46% open green space.
The name Citayam Fashion Week – it’s not a “week” as such – began as an ironic label for the custom of less affluent youngsters from outside areas of Jakarta like Citayam to dress up and go to Dukuh Atas to get out.
Sometimes they would pretend the crosswalk was a footbridge and post interviews with each other on TikTok.
It’s not just young fashionistas who call it home.
Citayam teenager Muhammad Naifin Ilham – nicknamed Alpin – has found a niche by posting videos from Citayam Fashion Week on social media.
Alpin said he had no friends until he started going there, but now has more than 18,000 followers on TikTok.
“I managed to make new friends, lots of them,” he said.
Oki Rahadianto Sutopo, director of the Center for Youth Studies at Gadjah Mada University, said Citayam Fashion Week is a channel for self-expression.
“These young people are trying to become an agent of themselves,” he said.
“Especially those who come from relatively outlying areas, which may not be as beautiful as the city center.”
Dr Sutopo said Citayam Fashion Week has given young people from less privileged areas access to a more cosmopolitan lifestyle.
“They can buy second-hand things that are cheap, find their styles, and create content on TikTok as if they’re participating in ‘cool’ urban culture,” he said.
He said Citayam Fashion Week could have positive side effects.
Its virality and popularity could “shed light on more crucial values, such as the lack of public spaces, social gaps, environmental issues, pluralism, multiculturalism”.
“But that becomes a challenge in Indonesia where things that go viral are often monetized or used for political purposes,” he said.
‘Hara-dukuh’ the new place to see
After the teens’ TikTok videos went viral, people from nearly every walk of life — from everyday citizens to state officials and politicians — wanted to join in on the trend.
Indonesian Tourism Minister Sandiaga Uno has started referring to Dukuh Atas as “Hara-dukuh”, referring to Tokyo’s iconic urban fashion hub, Harajuku.
Jakarta Governor Anies Baswedan last month invited visiting EU Ambassador Vincent Piket and European Investment Bank Vice President Kris Peeters to walk through the zebra crossing.
“I had a chance to try the SCBD style podium in Dukuh Atas. The conclusion is: none of us are as cool as them, we don’t deserve to go on the podium,” said writes Mr. Baswedan in an Instagram post.
“Next time, we’ll just be spectators and admirers.”
Some of Citayam’s teenagers have been offered product endorsement deals and collaborations with local fashion brands.
Siti Kurma, one of Citayam Fashion Street’s icons, said she now earns between $200 and $1,000 a day.
“I didn’t expect my child to go viral like this. Thank God, I hope it would elevate our dignity, we can buy a motorbike, buy a car,” his mother, Dina, said in an interview. with a local television channel.
“I was touched to receive so much money from my daughter…I bought gold rings and bracelets.”
Copycat events even started popping up outside of Jakarta.
Conservative reaction against the “LGBT campaign”
Muhamad Rizqi said participating in the impromptu fashion shows and the community that has formed around them was not only a lot of fun.
He said it helped him discover a passion for modeling and hoped it could lead to a professional career.
“I feel like it’s my place and it’s also an opportunity for me to succeed,” he said.
However, Citayam Fashion Week has powerful critics who slammed her for her “promotion of LGBT”.
“We are obligated to protect children from LGBT campaigns, including during Citayam Fashion Week,” Jakarta Deputy Governor Ahmad Riza Patria said.
Central Jakarta Social Service chief Abdul Salam told the media that he would “take action against men who dress like women during Citayam Fashion Week” because they were classified as having ” social protection issues.
Muhamad, whose photos are often used as a reference in the charges, said he was not campaigning for anything.
“To be honest, I’m really sad…and I’m not trying to promote any band at all,” he said.
“I realize that Indonesia may not be ready for the fashion I wear, but I try to be honest with myself, I try to love myself…even though I already know consequences, I still want to try,” he said.