New York (AFP) - Once the preserve of the rich and famous, New York high fashion is now more than ever entertainment for the world at large, with catwalk shows increasingly accessible and clothes instantly available.
Gone are the days when only editors of elite fashion magazines were allowed to hobnob with models and designers backstage at a catwalk show.
The digital revolution and the explosion in social media means that photos of a model being made up or a snip of gossip can be pinged around the world to avid fans in seconds.
Almost all New York designers now live stream their catwalk shows online. Sometimes retailers, such as US department store Saks, with design house Public School and others, carry them online as well.
Fashion houses on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook, openly encourage a new generation of consumers to watch, listen, start a conversation and of course buy.
"It is not just a monologue -- now it's a dialogue between the consumer and the brand," says Jessica Michault, chief editor of influential website nowfashion.com.
"If they don't feel like they are having a dialogue, they're going to get turned off from the brand, and part of that now is that you are just ramping up the experience of being included into the show."
At the latest New York fashion week, Tommy Hilfiger inaugurated Twitter's new Halo service, offering a real-time 360 -degree view of a show.
Givenchy went one step further by inviting more than 1,000 members of the public to ringside seats at its spectacular outdoor show.
Rapper Kanye West may have ensured being in the room at his Yeezy Season Two collection was the most exclusive ticket in town, but he offered tickets on a first-come-first-serve basis to watch it in cinemas at 36 select cities in America, Europe and Australia.
Alternatively, Periscope allowed lesser mortals or those with less free time to watch the show on the Internet, sparking a real-time conversation on social media platforms about the clothes... and his newly released song.
Social media monitors Socialbakers said 22 designers used Periscope and tweeted a total of 107 Periscope live streams during the week.
Marc Jacobs, another of the more exclusive invitations at fashion week, held his show partly in the street -- allowing fans to mingle with fashion photographers in catching a glimpse of the clothes and the models.
- All about Instagram -
"Gone are the days when you needed an invitation to participate. Fashion is now open to all," says fashion writer Eila Mell, who has written a book about New York fashion week.
In the digital age, traditional players are losing their influence to those who are more connected online, says Emily Bungert, who founded her own PR company, EB Consults, in August.
"Seventy percent now of your press list is probably websites and blogs, and 30 percent newspapers, magazines, stylists," she says.
Ten years ago, it would have been 100 percent the latter.
When she compiles her guest lists, she apportions seats based on a guest's online following.
"It's all about how many followers you have on Instagram -- a lot of the people that are the most famous in the front row are famous because they have 200,000 followers on Instagram or something," she explains.
Clothing is also increasingly available right off the runway. When tennis star Serena Williams launched her collection in Manhattan, customers could purchase the items online immediately
"You're going directly to the customer," Bungert says.
"In the past, you were first screened by the press and buyers, and then your designs were seen by the customers once the clothes hit the stores.
"Now people can go online and immediately buy stuff from the runway. It’s a totally different world."
Another way of maximizing coverage and online traffic is with a star-studded audience. Julia Roberts and Instagram queen Kim Kardashian were among those front row at Givenchy.
At the smaller end of the scale, young American designer Misha Nonoo launched the first "InstaShow," exclusively through pictures on Instagram, with "Girls" star Lena Dunham as one of the models.
And the trend looks set to expand to London fashion week, which opened on Friday after shows ended in the Big Apple.
Burberry plans to unveil a preview of its collection via Snapchat on Sunday, a day before its official show.