By  on December 22, 2005

NEW YORK — Since launching Inca in 1998, Stephanie Hirsch has been on a growth mission.

Initially, she added beach mats, then expanded with embellished bathing suits and resort coverups like caftans. Along the way, she found a business partner in Stacy Deutsch, a former sales executive at Polo Ralph Lauren and Max Mara.

Now, the duo is moving a few steps closer to their plan of building Inca into a lifestyle brand. This resort season, the company expanded one-year-old Incagirl into a full collection. Next year, the two executives hope to open the first Inca store, most likely in Manhattan, and they are adding a capsule collection of dresses to the mix.

It is a far cry from Inca's beginnings as a quirky totes label. Hirsch, a former assistant stylist, came up with the idea for the line after hiking the Inca Trail on an inspirational trip to Peru.

"I saw all these people with the same striped plastic bags," she recalled. "I thought they were amazing. At Machu Pichu, I sat on a rock and had an epiphany. I thought, 'I have to find the weavers and bring these bags back to the stores.'"

Inca has wholesale sales of $2.5 million. It is sold in stores such as Barneys New York, Saks Fifth Avenue, Neiman Marcus, Scoop, Fred Segal and Intermix. Globally, it is available at Four Seasons Hotels, Selfridges in London, Harvey Nichols in Dubai and Villa Moda in Kuwait.

Incagirl targets a similar distribution. It features shrunken versions of Inca designs from bejeweled swimsuits to tunics and caftans for the three- to 11-year-old set. Deutsch had prompted Hirsch to start the children's line after witnessing a baby boomlet among their peers.

"The hottest accessory is the child," Deutsch quipped. "Many of our friends have kids or are pregnant."

Incagirl wholesales from $25 to $30 for bathing suits and $45 to $60 for coverups. By comparison, the Inca collection for women wholesales from $85 to $150.

The new dress collection, meanwhile, wholesales for $150. There are three styles of minidresses in silk, lace and cotton that are cinched at the waist and suitable for throwing over a swimsuit on the beach. They can also serve as tops coupled with jeans. The dresses will launch in stores in March."It's an exclusive line of sportswear, which gives us more sales opportunities," Deutsch said.

The partners are hopeful their resort concept can easily translate into several different categories, and Hirsch said she sees potential in footwear, men's swimwear and beachwear, and even sun care.

"Our goal is to develop a whole lifestyle collection so the whole family can come and be outfitted by us," Deutsch added.

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