NJ's Best Independent "Back to School" Clothing Shops

Summer can't last forever, although that certainly would be swell. It's Back to School time and for many kids, that also means "Back to Cool." As in, what styles for boys and gals are cool and hip for the new academic year? We rounded up the best independent clothing stores in New Jersey--both storefront and online--and asked what kids under 10 are shopping for this days. (We also learned Montclair dominates the indie fashion scene for kids!) Here's the feedback; and be sure to check out our September GOList to make this the best month ever.

Over the Moon (Upper Montclair) is noticing that the 70s are back! It’s all about supertrends such as black patent “leather” skirts, anything made from a furry texture, any top that is super soft, colorful and furry. Doc Martens are popular in royal blue, purple, and a more formal brown. Boys are going for soft, more modern sweat pants that have a bit more style, and quilted vests for boys and girls are selling like hot cakes. Faux fur vests in different colors are on a kid’s “want” list, along with polar fleece and super colorful leggings. Fall coats in bright colors such as teal and fuscia are catching kid’s eyes and keep an eye out for awesome fashion finds from French brands such as Catimini. Accessories galore currently being sold include puffy winter coats, scarves and gloves (if you want to stock up early). This is the ideal shop to find a very special baby gift, and clothing for girls and boys runs from newborn to tween sizes.  The best of European and American clothing is featured, along with a selection of unique and wonderful shoes, toys, books and cards.  (More formal christening gowns and flower girl gowns are also sold on-location.)

Dirt & Noise Kids (Montclair) This shop was opened by a local mom who struggled to find awesome fashions for her young sons. Currently, Dirt & Noise is a fashionable kids clothing boutique and also online shop offering the latest trends in children's fashion from all of the best children's brands around the globe. Popular this season for boys are retro tees and joggers (super comfy, pull-ons for the boys which are tapered at the bottom). There are also many t-shirt options from Prefresh, Tiny Whales and Joah Love.Pair this look with a beanie hat and cool sneakers and they are good to go. For girls, animal prints are turning up everywhere, mostly in leggings, tigers, bears, horses and cats. They are everywhere. The coolest ones are done with a "photo realism" printing technic so they look real. Gold-lamé and silver leggings from Pink Chicken are hands-down their best-selling item this season.

Apple Village (Upper Montclair) Apple Village is a design-centric children's furnishings and gift shop—and they’re the new kids in town! The shop just opened this summer.  The store is a healthy mix of clothing, gifts and décor; clothes run from newborn to approximately age 10. Fab fall finds are long sleeved Rowdy Sprout rocker tee’s in that are super comfortable and made in the USA. The Beatles and Blondie long sleeve tee’s are best-sellers and shop owners are pumped to announce they carry the brand, Nobodinoz backpacks  and tutu’s from Barcelona. Also popular for kids are funky leggings from Noowooks, a San Francisco-based company, that are design-y and cool. Also popular are Raglan Pullovers (brands: new moon, and Adventure Awaits) and leggings (shapes)  from Strawberry Moth.

KidCuteTure (Lawrenceville—online) KidCuteTure is a mother-and-daughter business started by Natasha and Olga Pantelyat. If your daughter is into stripes, flowers, and ruffles, this is the shop for her! The colorful and comfortable children's clothing (it’s its own brand) is crafted from the finest, machine-washable Peruvian cottons and cut in sizes 3 months to 14 years. From its first collection, the company’s unique fashions have turned the kid's ready-to-wear market upside down. Many of the whimsical dresses come with a matching cotton hat—a must-have accessory. View their LookBook here.

La-di-da (Lakewood—online)  The ultimate shopping hub for the latest and greatest designs in chic children’s fashion. At this cyber shop, parents can explore the industry’s most prevalent designers, browse through swanky accessories, and piece together a trendy wardrobe for infants, toddler, or young children, t hat isn’t just your average, run-of-the-mill playwear. La-Di-Da carries all the hottest brands and designers from Bonpoint and Coco Blanc to Bobo Choses and Mini Rodini and have cool accessories and backpacks as well. As they say, if it can be found on the playgrounds of Hollywood, you can buy it at Ladida.com.

A Little Chic Boutique (Sparta Township—online) This store is open 24/7—that’s because it’s an online shop.  Way too cute outfits available for the adorable kids in your life include fluffy pink and purple tutus, rainbow tutus, character tutus, legging in a variety of colors and patterns, leg warmers, leotards that can be personalized with an airbrush design, dance costumes, and more. It’s a dream boutique for a little hip hop dancer or aspiring ballerina. Rock star T’s and polos, knitted hats, and hair accessories galore are also available for online purchase.

Precious Cargo (Livingston) 2500-square foot store carries a wide selection of trendy clothing and accessories for infants, toddlers, and tweens. The owners take pride in providing a personalized, pleasurable atmosphere and creating a close-knit relationship with their customers. Kids are gravitating towards flannel and fringe, printed leggings and jeans, puffy coats, traditional jeans, the brand Under Armor, and even really colorful backpacks and pencil cases.  It’s a one-stop shop for fall finds. Plus, if kids want an item with a special airbrush design, it can be specially ordered on-site. Click here to view which brands are popular and sold at this Livingston kids shop.

The Red Balloon (Summit) This neighborhood gem has been around for more than 25 years. According to owner Nicole, it’s where grandmothers used to shop for their own children; who now have children of their own shopping at The Red Balloon. A place for classic Back to School basics and one-of-a kind finds, The Red Balloon carries clothes for children newborn to tweens. They also sell stuffed animals, pop-up books, sticker books, and additional gift items. Popular clothes for kids are floral print dresses, graphic T’s with horses, fuzzy pajama pants, traditional polo button-down tops, and anything with an emoji pattern. (Note: They sell more modern, streamlined clothes, so no sports jerseys here) European brands of clothing sold in-shop include the fashion-forward brands Mayoral and JoJo Maman Bébé. Younger kids will love the in-store play area with a train set that can keep kiddos engaged while mom and dad shop. 

Kiditude  (Colt’s Neck—online) This Web shop has an awesome collection of T-shirts, accessories and more. For the older kids, a plethora of rock n’roll themed-shirts are available (Check out their groovy Beatlemania Tee in pink) as well as niche, very cool T-shirts. From My Little Pony to Carmelo Anthony jerseys to a Johnny Cash tribute tee, there really is something for everyone at Kiditude. Proving they know what’s trendy for kids, Kiditude also carries Minecraft t-shirts, belts and bracelets. As for accessories, unique items available include a Bob Marley knitted hat, skull-printed bowties, and red and black rocker belts.

Violet & Valentine (Manasquan) Tween girls at V&V are loving jeggings and boyfriend jeans. The shop's best-selling denim brands are Hudson, Tractr, DL1961 and Joe's Jeans. The girls are also really excited about skater dresses and V+V picked up a new line of dresser from Sally Miller. Ella Moss is another dress line with a lot of faux leather, lace and other beautiful fabrics. Doc Martens are back in style and teens also like anything with an Emoji design as well as Wildfox lounge pants and sweatshirts.

Denim & Daisies (Denville)  Little girls look for comfort as well as fashion and Sofi is a sought-after brand at this boutique. Dresses are always popular with kindergartens, but tunics and leggings sell better for the 7 to 10 year olds.  Flowers by Zoe is one of their favorite brands.  Also, the owners have noticed plaid is everywhere this fall, for babies all the way up to the  tween crowd.  Jeans having been replaced by jeggings. Joggers, a combination of a sweat pant and legging, is the new hot seller. Graphic T-shirts are always a hot trend, but this year two types of graphic tees stand out above the rest: positive messaging and food-themed tees.  Plus, faux fur is everywhere this fall: Long, shaggy fur, spotted fur, sheared fur in pale blush, leopard prints, etc...and used on vests, sweaters, jackets, and coats. Stripes and denim remain popular for little dudes. The shop also sells books, cards, pajamas and nightgowns.

photo: courtesy Denim & Daisies