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While the stylish wait for the newest seasonal collections to be presented on the runways of Paris, Milan or New York, local Muslim fashionistas say they can find their fix closer to home.
“Hijabers”, so called after the headscarves that they wear, have been descending on Pasar Tasik, a series of markets offering inexpensive and fashionable Muslim attire in Block F2 of Tanah Abang market and the basement of the Thamrin City shopping center in Central Jakarta.
Shoppers, often neighbors whom come en masse by commuter train from throughout Greater Jakarta, have evinced no hesitation when buying hijab and others items of Muslim wear in bulk or retail.
One hijaber, Rere, 24, said that she could spend more than a million rupiah on her monthly shopping trips.
“It’s much cheaper here, compared to other places,” Rere said.
A hijab could be found for as low as Rp 20,000 (US$2.20) at Pasar Tasik, as opposed to the Rp 25,000 charged for the same piece elsewhere.
“I plan to spend more today to buy attire for my family to celebrate Idul Fitri, even though it’s still a month away,” Rere, a resident of Tangerang, said.
Meanwhile, Rita, another shopper who lives on Jl. Ir. H. Juanda, Central Jakarta, said she usually spent Rp 30 million on seasonal shopping for the holiday.
“I shop here only once a year before Ramadhan, so it’s OK to spend a lot,” Rita said while threading through the crowds that top one million people on regular days and up to two million during the fasting month.
Rita, whose hands were full of purchased goods as she spoke to The Jakarta Post, said that she had been a regular customer of the market since 2004, as it offered nice quality and up-to-date goods.
Style is the principal concern for most hijabers, as the vendors from Pasar Tasik, which is open on Mondays and Thursdays until noon, update their offerings every two weeks.
Vendors said that braided hijabs have been most popular this week, along with cotton hijabs offered by cleric Mama Dedeh and a dress from local singer Syahrini that could also do double duty as a mukenah, the robe donned by women for prayers.
One vendor Nining, 45, said that she and her peers were happy to exploit the celebrities’ fashion outings. “We use their names to describe the attire simply because they are famous. They keep appearing on television and people are familiar with their names.”
Most merchants produced their offerings by themselves, drawing inspiration from television or the Internet, she said. Many earned in the millions of rupiah every day during Ramadhan, the nation’s peak consumption season.
For example, Nining, who has been selling women’s clothing at the market since 1991, said that at her best her shop could make up to Rp 30 million a day.
Asep Setiadi, the caretaker of the cooperative that coordinates the vendors, said that the merchants could make upwards of Rp 100 million a day.
Most of the merchants at the market came from Tasikmalaya, West Java, Asep said.
The market’s name was taken from the town and its operating hours were originally based on when the traders made the trek from West Java to Jakarta to sell their wares.
Before the market was relocated inside Tanah Abang market building in 2004, vendors peddled their items from vehicles parked in front of Tanah Abang Station.
Nowadays, Asep said, with a more comfortable place, Jakartans and people from other parts of Java have joined in the business.
Tanah Abang itself is the largest market of its kind in Asia.
“Our shoppers are not only Jakartans. We have customers from almost every parts of Indonesia and even from the Philippines, Malaysia and Thailand,” Asep said.
Asep was not bragging, as a host of languages from Indonesia and elsewhere were heard as buyers haggled with the sellers and porters carried huge packages addressed to destinations throughout the archipelago.
Nun, 52, for example, came from Manado, North Sulawesi, to shop at the market.
“I came here only once every three months, but I can spend more than Rp 50 million here,” Nun, herself a clothing vendor, said. (aml)