Before the recession, there was a sort of unwritten agreement between high fashion, department stores, and elite outlets not to use the Internet (considered, apparently, “low brow”) to reach out to wealthy customers.

When the recession hit and sales plummeted, however, all bets were off.

Department stores began slashing prices on high-priced inventory to get it off the shelves and luxury designers and outlets began to feel the crunch as fewer and fewer buyers were to be had. Now exclusive brands and high fashion designers and sellers are embracing the Web as a way to not only promote themselves, but to sell directly to consumers in Web-based showrooms.

Marc Jacobs, the flamboyant fashion designer with a $5 billion brand, has gone whole hog online. A year ago, admits his brand’s president and vice chairman, they were ready to stop delivering product to retailers who were deeply discounting them in order to make sales. Now, Jacobs has one of the most well-trafficked fashion websites on the Web with marketing and content to match its namesake’s offbeat style.

Other luxury brands, including Jimmy Choo, Hugo Boss, St. John, Kiehl’s and others, are beginning to embrace the World Wide Web as a new frontier as well. They’re all finding that they can often sell at nearly full price directly through the Web and may be finding buyers that they never would have seen in their retail outlets.

The added control over pricing and profits has also appealed to many brands, who’ve long established themselves as exclusive by offering not only one-of-a-kind designs, but also by pricing them to match their uniqueness.

The flashy, content-empty, picturesque sites that displayed information about the designer and little else are going out the door into Web history and being replaced with beautiful, but more functional online presence portals.

Few holdouts remain as fashion and elite brands embrace the Web as their markets falter.