Muhammad Rizqi’s catwalk is a zebra crossing, with traffic lights instead of street lights.
As he poses for the cameras in stilettos, a leather-trimmed polka-dot jumpsuit and trench coat, Jakarta’s glittering applause mingles with the honking of horns from passing cars.
Sitiam Fashion Week – an organic fashion event based on the sidewalks of Dukuh Atas station and central Jakarta’s parks – is the latest phenomenon in the Indonesian capital and Muhammad is one of its stars.
“When I first looked on social media, I thought, ‘What is this place? Why are these people going there?’ The 21-year-old told ABC.
But after I went there, the people, although they were friendly and fun to meet, the relationship was more than what was seen on social media.
However, many in conservative Indonesia – including those in the government – are not fans of Muhammad’s style.
From a youth hangout spot to a viral fashion trend
Dukuh Atas is a transportation hub in Jakarta’s CBD, with trains from outlying suburbs such as Sitiam, Bogor and Bekasi connecting to the city’s bus routes and other routes.
The provincial government redeveloped the area in 2019, creating a public park, pedestrianizing the road and building a skate park.
It is one of the few places in Greater Jakarta that has public open space. Nine percent of central Jakarta is open green space, while outlying areas such as Sitiam and Bekasi have about 6 to 7 percent.
By comparison, Sydney is 46 percent green open space.
The name Sitiam Fashion Week – not “week” as such – originated as a tongue-in-cheek reference to the habit of young people outside of Jakarta, like Sitiam, to dress up and go to Dukuh. Atas to have fun.
Sometimes they post interviews on TikTok as if the crosswalk were a sidewalk.
It’s not just the young fashionistas who have made a home there.
Sitiam teenager Mohammad Naifin Ilham – nicknamed Alpin – gained popularity when he posted videos of Sitiam Fashion Week on social media.
Alpin says he had no friends until he started going there, but now has more than 18,000 followers on TikTok.
“I was able to make new friends, lots of them,” he said.
Oki Rahadianto Sutopo, director of the Center for Youth Studies at Gadja Mada University, said the Sitiyam Fashion Week was a way of self-expression.
“These young people are trying to be their own agents,” he said.
“Especially those coming from relatively remote areas, they probably don’t look as good as downtown.”
Dr. Sutopo said the Sitiam Fashion Week allowed young people from underprivileged areas to experience a more global lifestyle.
“They can buy inexpensive luxury items, get their style and create content on Tik Tok as if they’re participating in ‘cool’ urban culture,” he said.
He said that Citiam Fashion Week could have some positive side effects.
Its virality and popularity “may highlight more important values such as the lack of public spaces, social gaps, environmental issues, diversity, multiculturalism.”
But this will be a challenge in Indonesia; Viral content is often monetized or used for political gain.
The new place to see ‘Hara-Dukuh’
After the teenagers’ Tik Tok videos went viral, people from almost all walks of life – from ordinary citizens to government officials and politicians – wanted to participate in the trend.
Indonesia’s Tourism Minister Sandiaga Uno Dukuh began by calling Atas “Hara-Dukuh,” referring to Harajuku, Tokyo’s famous street fashion hub.
Last month, Jakarta Governor Anis Basedan invited visiting EU Ambassador Vincent Pickett and European Investment Bank Vice President Chris Peters to cross the zebra crossing.
“I had the opportunity 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 walk on the catwalk,” Mr. Baswedan wrote in an Instagram post.
“Next time we will just be spectators and fans.”
Some Citayam teenagers have been awarded product endorsement deals and collaborations with local fashion brands.
Siti Kurma, one of Siti’s fashion street icons, said they were now earning between $200 and $1,000 a day.
Her mother, Dina, said, “I didn’t expect my son to go viral like this. Thank God, we hope he will raise our dignity. We will buy a motorcycle, we will buy a car.”
“I was touched to get so much money from my daughter… I bought gold rings and bracelets.”
Copycat events are starting to pop up outside of Jakarta.
Conservative response to the ‘LGBT campaign’
Muhammad Rizqi said participating in fast fashion shows and participating in the community created around them was not only a great pleasure.
He said it helped him find an interest in modeling and hoped it would lead to a professional career.
“I feel like this is my place and it’s an opportunity for me to be successful,” he said.
However, CITYAM Fashion Week has some fierce critics who criticize it for “promoting LGBT”.
“We have a duty to protect children from LGBT campaigns, including Citiam Fashion Week,” said Jakarta Deputy Governor Ahmad Riza Patria.
Abdul Salam, the head of Central Jakarta Social Services, told the media that he will “take action against men who dress as women during Sitiam Fashion Week” because they are said to be “social security problems”.
Muhammad, whose photos are often used as a reference for the lawsuit, said they did not do any incitement.
“I’m really sad to be honest … and I’m not trying to promote any team,” he said.
“I realize that Indonesia may not be ready for the fashion I wear, but I try to be true to myself, I try to love myself… Even though I already know the results, I still want to try it,” he said.