MILAN — Beyoncé finished her schooling at the Italian shows last week and she’s ready to graduate into the fashion business.
After weeks of hints and paparazzi hype at the New York and Milan shows, the 22-year-old songstress, whose first solo album, “Dangerously In Love,” has topped the Billboard charts for 15 weeks, told WWD that she and her mother are definitively set to launch two apparel collections by next year, possibly for summer 2004. The collections would include a junior-oriented line with a hip-hop feel, as well as a more sophisticated range of dresses and separates.
“People my age love fashion and want to dress in designer clothes, but can’t afford it,” Beyoncé said backstage at the Versace show on Saturday night, wearing a Versace apple green chiffon gown and matching snakeskin chain bag. “I want to do something that is affordable, but sophisticated and sexy and feminine — something I would wear.”
Her mother and stylist, Tina Knowles, said they were in final negotiations with two New York-based manufacturers, but declined to give names or elaborate on collection details. “We’re hoping to have the line ready for summer 2004,” Knowles said, following the Dolce & Gabbana show on Friday. “It’s a bit ambitious, but we’re going to try.”
It could not be learned who the final contenders are for the line, but fashion is said to be only one of numerous product categories the singer might be prepared to license. Negotiations are being handled by music mogul Tommy Mottola’s fledgling licensing entity, Moto, whose representatives have been chatting up Seventh Avenue manufacturers for several weeks.
Beyoncé said she had three possibilities for a name of her upcoming line and acknowledged that she was filing away ideas during her front-row appearances at Emporio Armani, Dolce & Gabbana, Gianfranco Ferré, Roberto Cavalli and Versace. “It’s been incredible to be here,” she said on the shows’ sidelines over the weekend. “I’m just so excited to have this opportunity — I’ve been taking notes.”
And so has her mother, who for years has served as stylist for both her daughter and her daughter’s group, Destiny’s Child. At various shows the two signaled one another when something really caught their interest. At the Dolce & Gabbana show, Knowles could be seen mouthing to her daughter, as Naomi Campbell sauntered by in a diamante flapper number, “That would be great for your next video.”
While price points for the upcoming line were not available, both women said they wanted to target Beyoncé’s fan base and do so through two separate collections. The expected junior line, rife with T-shirts and jeans, would be more “funky and hip-hop,” according to the duo. The other collection would have more of a designer bent, with feminine dresses and sexy separates. “We want to bring some of the couture look to a broader public,” Knowles said at Cavalli.
While Beyoncé is just the latest music personality to enter the fashion fold, her broad cross-section of fans could make her line potential gold at stores. Her debut album went multiplatinum, while Destiny’s Child has sold 33 million albums worldwide. She’s done commercials for both Pepsi and L’Oréal and is breaking into film, most recently starring opposite Cuba Gooding Jr. in “The Fighting Temptations.” Last summer she made her feature film debut as Foxxy Cleopatra in “Austin Powers: Goldmember.”
Since Beyoncé first hit the music scene in 1997 with Destiny’s Child, the Texas native’s fashion sense has balanced street credibility with vamped up glam. She’s as natural in a white tank and stretch denim hot pants as she is in floor-length chiffon gown. Her music style, both in her recent solo venture and in her original gig as lead singer in Destiny’s Child, slides from R&B to hip-hop to pop.
Yet despite her undisputed reign as “It” diva of the moment, Beyoncé will be entering a market fast becoming saturated with music superstars trying to carve out their own retail stake.
P. Diddy and Jennifer Lopez may have been the originals to cross over from music to fashion, but in doing so they ushered in a new era in superstar branding, with everyone from Snoop Dogg to Eminem to Latina crossover Thalia vying for a piece of the $12 billion junior market. Thalia was also represented by Mottola, who recently launched a deal with Kmart to carry the line in 335 of its doors. First-year revenues for the Thalia line are projected between $300 and $500 million.
Elsewhere, rap bombshell Eve and Gwen Stefani, introduced their respective collections, Fetish and L.A.M.B, for spring retail.
Just how Beyoncé and her mother will translate her style into a contemporary collection to compete with those other lines is yet to be seen. One aspect is for sure, they received a crash course in design last week in Milan and earlier scouted the New York runways, attending GF Ferré, Rosa Cha, Badgley Mischka, Baby Phat and BCBG.
“It’s hard to say what collection I liked best because every one brought something different to the runway,” Beyoncé said. “They gave me plenty of ideas.”