Citayam Fashion Week: the social divide and the city

Photo by Hafidz Muhammad A for Antara.

In recent weeks, Dukuh Atas Park, located in the heart of Sudirman business district in Jakarta, has been full of young people. From late afternoon to evening, beautifully dressed teenagers used a zebra crossing as a catwalk, creating a DIY fashion show that was dubbed “Citayam Fashion Week”.

Citayam is an area on the outskirts of Jakarta, one hour by train south of Dukuh Atas, between Depok and Bogor. The phenomenon has been given the name “Citayam Fashion Week” because most of the teenagers hanging out in Dukuh Atas are from these suburban areas of Greater Jakarta.

Citayam Fashion Week started to take off in June, when interviews with several teenagers went viral on TikTok. The teens’ unique sense of street style, carefree attitudes and fun slang have created compelling social media posts. These in turn caught the attention of more teenagers and the mainstream media – and, eventually, politicians.

The media began calling Dukuh Atas “The Next Harajuku”, referring to the Tokyo neighborhood known for its youthful culture and bold street style. Celebrities, professional models, content creators and politicians quickly joined in, creating their own content to attract viewers and send a message of support to teens.

Jakarta Governor Anies Baswedan said the city government would not seek to prevent teenagers from congregating in the area. After an official meeting, he even invited the European Union Ambassador to Indonesia, the Vice President of the European Investment Bank and their staff to strut the Dukuh Atas crosswalk in their business suits , not exactly capturing the popular street style which is a fundamental aspect. of the trend.

But not everyone supported the phenomenon. Many reviewers complained that the teenagers were hanging out, littering, and causing traffic jams. In fact, Citayam Fashion Week and the emerging tensions surrounding it have exposed some of the deep class issues facing Jakarta and the people who live there.

Reclaiming the “Golden Triangle”

Jalan Sudirman is part of the so-called “Golden Triangle”, an area bordered by Jalan MH Thamrin-Sudirman, Jalan HR Rasuna Said and Jalan Gatot Subroto which serves as Jakarta’s central business district.

Preparations for the 2018 Asian Games prompted the local government to beautify the Sudirman area, revitalize trails, install park benches, and construct comfortable bus stops and modern walkways. Jalan Sudirman now presents a sterile image of Jakarta as a safe and modern metropolis, meant to inspire similar urbanization in other corners of the country.

Right in the middle of Jalan Sudirman is the Dukuh Atas transport hub, where suburban trains from the outskirts of Jakarta (Bekasi, Depok and Bogor) converge with several TransJakarta bus lines (another affordable option for suburban commuters to access Jakarta’s business district), the new, more expensive Jakarta MRT which started operating in 2019, and the BNI City station which connects to the airport.

Different classes of society meet in Dukuh Atas – minimum wage workers who live on the outskirts and middle class office workers who commute to work around Jalan Sudirman or transit to catch the next train or bus to return home. In August 2019, around the time the Jakarta MRT was launched, the city government redesigned the Dukuh Atas area as a public park. He closed off a street, converted it into a walled pedestrian thoroughfare, built a skate park and promoted the space as open to everyone.

While city life is often associated with glamor and success, research by Puskapa and Unicef ​​found that young city dwellers are rarely included in decision-making processes and are often ignored by adults. They crave access and have their voices heard. A report noted that Jakarta Governor Baswedan supported Citayam Fashion Week because he believed it could inspire young people to one day seek employment in the city – a clue to how young people are only valued when they grow up and become part of the Compelling Work.

Citayam Fashion Week is therefore young people who communicate their desire (and their ability) to penetrate the urban landscape in their own way. It is also a clear indicator of the thirst for open spaces in crowded Greater Jakarta, a consequence of poor urban planning in areas like Depok, which leaves young people no space to express themselves.

Citayam Fashion Week teens are changing Sudirman in many ways. The term SCBD, which usually refers to the “Sudirman central business district” – the area where the Jakarta Stock Exchange and major technology and e-commerce companies are located – has now been repurposed to also mean “Sudirman, Citayam, Bojonggede and Depok”. Similarly, the term “Anak SCBD” (SCBD children), which was previously used to refer to the wealthiest millennial and Gen Z office workers employed in the SCBD, is now used as a nickname for teenagers who congregate at Dukuh Atas.

The appropriation of the term SCBD is both a humorous twist on the formal, capital-focused image of Jakarta, as well as an emotional expression of teenagers’ desire to be part of a city that has pushed income residents medium to low towards the periphery.

But this is not just a discursive appropriation of the term SCDB. This desire to be part of the cityscape also takes on obvious physical form, as teenagers dominate the Dukuh Atas crosswalk, holding back passing cars and motorbikes and claiming their grip on the city.

However, this control over the public space is ephemeral. At the end of the day, the teenagers face an hour-long train ride home, with their efforts represented only by short-lived social media posts.

Class struggle

By transforming Dukuh Atas Park into a place to meet and exhibit their street style, young people claim ownership of the public space and express themselves with their limited means. They were applauded for their creativity in using unbranded clothes, knock-offs and locally branded makeup, and combining them effortlessly.

As the trend took off, some challenges emerged. Teenagers rose to fame specifically because of their daring, low-budget adaptations of branded fashions. But others have mocked their fashion as “tacky”, revealing the deep class and income differences that characterize modern Jakarta.

As Citayam Fashion Week grows in popularity and celebrities and social media stars seek to attend, the phenomenon is moving further and further away from the popular spirit that made it popular in the first place. Several content creators have recently admitted to being endorsed by brands to showcase their products at Dukuh Atas. Similarly, actor Baim Wong even tried to trademark the term “Citayam Fashion Week” last week, quickly backing down after being bullied online.

The Jakarta government started discussing whether to relocate Citayam Fashion Week to another area of ​​Jakarta, or only allow it on weekends, as it started to cause traffic jams. Predictably, some government officials said they would take action against teenage boys dressed in women’s clothing, ostensibly under the guise of “protecting” teenage boys.

It is important to ask who really benefits from the growing popularity of Citayam Fashion Week, and whether young people really have access to the prosperity that the city promotes. There have been several reports of teenagers sleeping on pavements after missing the last train home and then being described as a nuisance.

Citayam Fashion Week should not only be seen as the product of young people’s creativity and bold sense of expression, but also as stark proof of the deep class divisions in Jakarta and the challenges faced by teenagers. who seek to transgress them.

Hopefully, the popularity of Citayam Fashion Week will help the public better understand the aspirations of young people and see their value beyond labor market participation. The phenomenon should also remind the government that the city urgently needs more inclusive public spaces and that it should do much more to improve the living conditions of precarious young people on the outskirts.

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