NEW YORK — Beyoncé Knowles is a full-fledged designer at last.

After a public search that made “American Idol” look like a movie of the week, the singer-actress has surprisingly signed a deal with Kids Headquarters, a 10-year-old apparel company here that holds licenses for such children’s apparel lines as Kenneth Cole Reaction, Skechers, Timberland and Pony. The deal would be the first move into branded women’s apparel by Kids Headquarters and will mark yet another entry into the burgeoning field of hip-hop artists and other celebrities producing clothing lines.

Sources close to the deal said Knowles’ agreement would be to produce a line of women’s clothing under the A Touch of Couture label. A spokeswoman for Kids Headquarters would not comment on whether the company has signed a deal with the singer/actress. She did say a statement would be forthcoming. A spokeswoman for Knowles declined to comment.

Knowles had previously been in talks for a deal with Ecko Unlimited, a $350 million company that produces Ecko Unltd., as well as the G-Unit clothing collection, as reported last month. Ecko Unltd. representatives declined comment. According to sources close to the performer, Knowles and her stylist mother, Tina, pulled away from a deal with Ecko Unltd. in favor of Kids Headquarters. Sources said negotiations with Ecko Unltd. may have collapsed when Tina Knowles was demanding too much money for the deal.

Terms of the deal with Kids Headquarters could not be learned, but the company does not have the street credibility of Ecko Unltd. The new Knowles line, which will presumably be overseen by Tina, also faces competition — growing almost daily — from the slew of other hip-hop artists and celebrities introducing their own apparel collections. Sean “P. Diddy” Combs, Jay-Z and Eve all have their own lines, Sean John, Rocawear and Fetish, respectively, and just last month, Missy Elliott launched a collection with Adidas. Now other hip-hop artists like Mary J. Blige, Ashanti and Alicia Keys have expressed interest in one day doing their own clothing lines.

Beyoncé, who first became known as part of the award-winning trio Destiny’s Child, won five Grammy Awards this year for her solo debut, “Dangerously in Love.” She is also building a movie career, having been cast in the upcoming movie “The Pink Panther,” and having appeared in such films as “Austin Powers in Goldmember” and “The Fighting Temptations.”Speculation had been mounting the last few months about who would produce the line, 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 priority was to work with the singer on the new multi-year agreement she signed with The Estée Lauder Cos. — Hilfiger’s beauty licensee — for Knowles to appear in the advertising campaign for a new Hilfiger women’s fragrance called True Star, to be launched in the U.S. in September and rolled out globally in October.

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 divulge names or elaborate on details at that time.

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