Now we can all be fashion editors as Instagram changes the game for the world’s trendsetters

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Last month, on a bright morning in Chinatown, New York, Voguephotographer Michael O’Neal stood in the middle of the street with his phone outstretched. He needed to reframe the shot so he could see the detail on his model’s Calvin Klein pumps. And then, with the sharp-fingered care of an artist, he pressed his screen and hashtagged it onInstagram. September’s #VogueInstaFashion series, using only an iPhone, was the first high fashion shoot on the photo-sharing app and the latest commercial nod to Instagram’s place in the industry. As a tool, a gallery, a community and a muse. And as the most important thing to happen to fashion this year.

This season I followed London fashion week through 612-pixel squares. From the 205 bus, I studied the Christopher Kane show, his slippery gowns and spray-painted dresses detailed on the Instagram stream of style blogger Susie Bubble. Two hundred miles away from Paris, in bed with a book, I admired the splashy colours of Celine’s spring/summer collection through the front-row feed of Vogue fashion editor Francesca Burns, seconds after the m odels had passed her.

There is emotional sincerity in a photo taken fast. With Instagram I choose my editors. I choose the people on the ground with eyes I admire and it’s this, their cut – their single photo of one key look that will sum up a collection for their followers.

In the two months after launching in October 2010 (two years before Facebook bought it for $1bn), Instagram had amassed a million registered users. Today, it has more 150 times that, a proportion of whom (including Isabel Marant, with 58,000 followers, and Cara Delevingne, with more than 2.5 million) make up the fashion elite.Maureen Mullen of L2, the digital thinktank, reports that Instagram registers 25 times higher engagement than any other social platform. She explains how fashion dominates the app. Oscar de la Renta debuted his new campaign advertorial to his PR’s 229,000 Instagram followers, weeks before it ran in Vogue or Elle‘s September issues, but, despite not having an account, it’s Chanel which wins in hashtag mentions. Its Paris show was “a playground for the Instagram generation“, with bloggers lining up to take selfies beside a huge Chanel robot and quilted sumo wrestler. Much of Instagram’s success in this fast-moving visual industry, explains Mullen, is because it is “mobile-native”. It lives in our pocket.

This year, style blogger Susie Lau started noticing images from her Instagram pinned up as inspiration on designers’ mood boards. She wasn’t surprised. She started Style Bubble in 2006 to publish her fashion photos, but since Instagram launched, her followers no longer have to visit her blog to see the pictures. The photos come to them. “For an industry that has a very short attention span and undergoes changes every day,” she says, “it’s perfect for capturing people’s attention for a split second.”

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