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When you've got a designer helping you get dressed in the morning, you have a lot of options – including custom pieces. "I want my kids to be a part of my work," Cynthia Rowley tells PEOPLE. "So sometimes I shrink things down for them," like she did with the sweatshirt worn by her younger daughter Gigi (left), which was inspired by a "junk" pattern from her women's collection. But Rowley isn't too specific about what her daughters Gigi and Kit (right) pick out these days. "Once they started having their own ideas about fashion I just let them wear whatever they want," she says. Now, Kit opts for "not basic, but classic" jeans and sneakers combos, and Gigi "is a little more eccentric." Check out Rowley's picks for a memorable and fashionable back-to-school look.
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SKIRTING THE ISSUE
This Stella McCartney skirt "is a splurge," admits Rowley. But she recommends buying it a little bit big, "so it starts out below the knee when they're little, and belt it or stitch in to make it smaller. You can make that skirt last five years or more."
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While this Boden shirt is technically for boys, Rowley adores oversized plaids for girls as well. Like with the Stella McCartney skirt, she suggests sizing up. "When it's all the way down to the knees, it can be cute if you roll up the sleeves. As they grow, it can turn into a little tight plaid shirt they wear under a sweater. Be creative and think, 'How can this work for my kid?'"
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IN THE BAG
"A new and cool backpack can make a regular T-shirt and jeans look presentable and nice," Rowley says of this piece by Herschel. "Every year we try to get a new backpack. It's like the one treat that makes you really excited about school."
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JUST FOR KICKS
These Converse sneakers are totally customizable – down to the stitching and the sole color! Kids can even have nicknames printed onto the outer lining or back heel stripe.
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ON THE BRIGHT SIDE
Start the school year with a shirt emblazoned with a "positive mantra," like Rowley's own "Optimist" tee, available on cynthiarowley.com in September.
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Rowley tends to avoid overly girly and lacy items when it comes to shopping for kids. This OshKosh skirt feels quirky thanks to polka dots, but is still a relaxed basic.
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"The tough-pretty vibe here makes things interesting," says Rowley of this Zara bomber. "To me, this is really chic. I would wear a black leather jacket, so it's kind of cool that [kids] can too."
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HEAD OF THE CLASS
"If you take a scooter to school, or a bike, a nice bike helmet is a great gift for back to school," she says of her futuristic patterned helmet.
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ALL IN THE WRIST
"We make friendship bracelets over the summer. On the first day of school, you can give them to your friends," says Rowley. "Add this Feed bracelet to your 'arm party'!" An added bonus? This particular accessory gives back: Your purchase provides five school meals for kids in need.
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THE WRITE STUFF
"It's hard to get kids excited about new notebooks, but a few items can really spice it up," like Rowley's neoprene confetti pencil case. "Make their everyday items special," she says.
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"A lot of kids's stuff can be almost over-designed and whimsical." says Rowley. "The nicest stuff is subtle," like this Crewcuts dress.
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Skinny jeans on boys are so cute," Rowley says of these Zara trousers. "Wear them with chunky high-top sneakers and any kind of sweatshirt."