Polo Ralph Lauren Corp, the fashion company behind the Polo and Club Monaco brands, said on Thursday its smaller Rugby brand is launching an iPhone application that lets users design their own shirts.

Rugby, launched in 2004, is a collegiate-inspired brand that targets young adults and has a dozen stores across the United States. The move comes as brands ranging from computer maker Dell Inc to Starbucks Corp use popular networking sites to boost sales and communicate directly with users.

Rugby's new application, available this week for Apple Inc iPhone and iPod touch devices, lets consumers design their own version of 19 different products, including varsity sweaters, rugby shirts, polo shirts and hooded sweatshirts.

Buyers can personalize their shirts by adding patches that include numbers and letters. They can also upload photos of themselves, choose hairstyles, skin tones and backgrounds, and model their creations, which they can share those pictures with friends via email or Facebook.

David Lauren, senior vice president of advertising, marketing and corporate communications and Ralph Lauren's son, said the move reflects what the company calls merchantainment or a blending 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.

The company, which has already launched iPhone applications giving users a taste of its Ralph Lauren Collection runway shows, is not alone.

Designer Norma Kamali also 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, including offerings from her high-end line and her line at Wal-Mart Stores Inc, through their phones.

Lauren said consumers can get an online peek of its Ralph Lauren Spring 2010 show, following the show, which takes place next week.

(Reporting by Martinne Geller; additional reporting by Jan Paschal; editing by Andre Grenon)