NEW YORK (Reuters) - Polo Ralph Lauren Corp, the fashion company behind the Polo and Club Monaco brands, said on Thursday its smaller Rugby brand was launching an iPhone application that lets users design their own shirts.
Rugby is a collegiate-inspired brand that targets young adults and has a dozen stores in the United States.
The action comes as brands ranging from computer maker Dell Inc to Starbucks Corp use networking sites to boost sales and communicate directly with the public.
Rugby's application, available this week for Apple Inc iPhone and iPod touch devices, allows consumers to customize 19 products, including sweaters, shirts, and sweatshirts. And they can download photos of themselves in their creations.
David Lauren, senior vice president of advertising, marketing and corporate communications and Ralph Lauren's son, said the action reflects what the company calls "merchantainment", a blend of merchandising and entertainment.
"That has been very compelling for the customer, but really a natural evolution of what we've already done for 40 years," Lauren said.
Wendy Liebmann, chief executive of consulting firm WSL Strategic Retail, said Polo Ralph Lauren's experimentation with technology has helped it evolve and expand its reach.
"I think that's kept that brand, which is still pretty traditional in its design aesthetic, very relevant and kept new people coming in to it," Liebmann said.
Polo, which already launched iPhone applications giving users a taste of its Ralph Lauren Collection runway shows, is not alone.
Designer Norma Kamali is launching an iPhone application to coincide with her Spring 2010 runway show, taking place on September 17 at a Manhattan Apple store. Kamali's application will let users buy clothing via their phones.
Lauren said consumers can get an online peek at its Ralph Lauren Spring 2010 show, after the show which is scheduled for next week.