Fashion Week was once the sole purview of the elite. Celebrities, socialites, and editors of powerful magazines like Vogue would descend on New York to get first-looks at what designers had in store for the upcoming season. Allowing the hoi polloi in was strictly verboten. But then the internet happened, exploding what used to live only in the glossies and planting it firmly online. Now, Fashion Week as an institution seems to want a compromise. How to return to its roots while staying open for all digital eyes to see? Instagram is right in the middle of that shift.

Fashion brings the amateur photographer out in people

Instagram made its biggest showing yet at Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week this year. No one should come away surprised; fashion tends to bring the amateur photographer out in people, and the runways are by now no stranger to the blue glow of smartphone screens. Official attendees needed only to guide where those photos went to try to make them more meaningful. With that in mind, publications like Lucky took an extra step in working directly with the company to beef up their coverage as well as their social engagement. Back on the ground, Instagram installed a photo wall at the Lincoln Center "Tents" to show off pics the hundreds of street-style photographers and fans were taking on and off the runway — and coax others to do the same. And Tommy Hilfiger even did an "InstaMeet" with his own coterie of couture devotees so they could see his show from behind the scenes.

All this took place as IMG Fashion, Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week's corporate overseer, sought to tamp down on attendance and bring something back for more rarefied palettes (If not entirely to make the show more manageable). "It was becoming a zoo," IMG senior vice president Catherine Bennett told the Wall Street Journal in December. "What used to be a platform for established designers to debut their collections to select media and buyers has developed into a cluttered, often cost-prohibitive and exhausting period for our industry to effectively do business." Indeed, designers were much more selective about their invites this year, leaving some out in the cold early on. But that did little to stop the flow of photos online. All the better for potential buyers watching from the sidelines; designers can hardly ignore their followers nowadays, even if Lincoln Center just isn't big enough for all of them. That means embracing the social web with open arms.

All the better for potential buyers

Racked took a look into how Instagram has changed the culture at Fashion Week, speaking to the likes of Kenneth Cole and Paper Magazine Editorial Director Mickey Boardman to get a sense of the shift. What's clear is that fashion is only just beginning to figure out how to make good use of this technology. But they're getting better at it. In any case, you can expect more photos and an even bigger photo wall come Fall Fashion Week. And perhaps a better sense of what to wear next year.