By  on September 25, 2008

INCA Designs founder and designer Stephanie Hirsch has exited the troubled resort lifestyle company due to irreconcilable creative differences.

Hirsch said Wednesday she made the decision reluctantly “after being unable to resolve unforeseen material differences relating to INCA’s management, operations and long-term business strategy.”

Hirsch determined she could not remain with INCA and “maintain the exacting standards of the INCA brand she created.”

According to a Securities and Exchange Commission filing on Sept. 9, Hirsch gave notice to the company that it is in breach of her employment agreement for failure to pay her base salary and resigned as a director of the company.

Her business partner of the past four years, Stacy Josloff said, “My investors weren’t happy with the direction she was taking the company in terms of production issues and design, and because of that they started to pull back on the dollars they were investing. Unfortunately or fortunately, not having Stephanie in the company has been a positive thing. My people on board are coming up with new money and more money.”

INCA Designs is in debt “in the range” of $1.4 million, Josloff said. “Three-quarters of that is my own money, whereas Stephanie didn’t put a dime into the company.”

Josloff chalked up the debt to taking the company public, opening two stores and expanding the collection. Contrary to published reports last summer, INCA Designs has not had any liens put against the company, she added.

For the quarter ended June 30, INCA’s revenues were $48,000. The stock last traded for less than a penny, but has been as high as $1.59 in the last 52 weeks.

A Montreal designer, Kathleen Alix, has taken over Hirsch’s creative role. As for her management role, Josloff said, “I’ve been doing most of the work already.”

Founded by Hirsch in 1996, the resort lifestyle label now sells swimwear, beach bags, accessories, cover-ups and children’s wear. INCA Designs has a freestanding store at 976 Lexington Avenue in New York and plans to open another in a few weeks in Miami’s new Gansevoort South hotel. The brand also has lined up three new factories to try to improve quality, fit and fashion, Josloff said.

Hirsch and Josloff were friends who partnered in 2004. Josloff, a former staffer at Ralph Lauren and Max Mara, was then married to Donny Deutsch, the ad executive and host of “The Big Idea.”

Regarding her former partner, Josloff said, “As much as she created this business, and as good as she was, you have to advance yourself with the times and with what customers are looking for, especially now with the way things are. Unfortunately it didn’t work out with Stephanie.”

Hirsch could not be reached for further comment Wednesday.

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