NEW YORK — Beyoncé Knowles can now at last add the title of designer to her résumé.
At least it appears that way. According to sources close to the singer-actress, Knowles has signed a deal with Ecko Unlimited to produce a line of women’s clothing under the A Touch of Couture label. Executives at Ecko Unltd. refused to comment on whether they have signed a deal, but the relationship between the megastar and the $350 million company would make sense — Ecko Unltd. already has its place in the celebrity clothing industry as it has been manufacturing 50 Cent’s G-Unit collection since its launch about a year ago and is planning to launch a G-Unit women’s collection for spring selling.
Knowles appeared on an entertainment TV show over the weekend saying she had finally signed a deal to produce her apparel line, but she did not divulge the manufacturer.
Rumors of a deal for Knowles to produce her collection have been circulating for months, and sources said the line is sure to be reminiscent of her style, since her mother and stylist, Tina Knowles, will have a creative hand in it.
Tina and Beyoncé Knowles could not be reached for comment.
The two revealed plans for their own clothing collection last fall, when they were ubiquitous at fashion shows in New York and Milan. They admitted they were doing research, attending such shows as GF Ferré, Rosa Cha, Badgley Mischka, Baby Phat, Dolce & Gabbana and BCBG.
At the Grammy Awards in February, Knowles wore a gold gown, designed by her mother. When the singer was asked whose design it was, she responded, “A Touch of Couture.”
“I am sure they signed with Ecko [Unltd.],” said one source close to Knowles. “They were in talks for a really long time and that’s the way they were leaning.”
However, another source said Tina has been demanding and a deal might have collapsed at the last minute.
“The last thing I heard was that Ecko [Unltd.] was going to sign the deal and may have pulled out at the last minute because Tina was so demanding,” another source said.
As reported in WWD in October, the singer said she hoped to launch two collections — one a junior-oriented line with a hip-hop feel and a second, more sophisticated range of dresses and separates.
“People my age love fashion and want to dress in designer clothes, but can’t afford it,” Knowles said in October. “I want to do something that is affordable, but sophisticated and sexy and feminine — something I would wear.”
Tina Knowles said last fall in Milan that she and her daughter were in final negotiations with two New York-based manufacturers, but declined to give names or elaborate on collection details at that time.
“We’re hoping to have the line ready for summer 2004,” Tina said. “It’s a bit ambitious, but we’re going to try.”
There had been rumors over the last few months over who would produce the line, with speculation ranging from Rocawear to Tommy Hilfiger. Rocawear earlier this year declined to comment on whether it was in talks with Knowles, while Hilfiger didn’t dismiss the possibility. However, he said the first priority was to work with the singer on the new multiyear agreement she signed with The Estée Lauder Cos. — Hilfiger’s beauty licensee — for Knowles to appear in the advertising for a new Hilfiger women’s fragrance, reportedly called True Star, to be launched in the U.S. in September and rolled out globally in October.
Knowles would join a flood of hip-hop artists into the apparel business. Two weeks ago, Missy Elliott launched a collection with Adidas, while Mary J. Blige, Ashanti and Alicia Keys all have expressed interest in one day doing their own clothing lines.