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Clothing company seeks to help disadvantaged children get education, improve lives

MENOMONIE —  A startup Menomonie children’s clothing design company with a mission to help children is attracting University of Wisconsin-Stout graduates and students who want to help with the cause.

Cross Border Wear, founded by Vivian Ngo, who has attended UW-Stout taking apparel design classes, said two years ago she returned to her home country of Vietnam and visited a couple of orphanages. “I saw the living conditions of the kids and I needed to help them,” Ngo said.

She designed dresses for some of the orphans to wear for the upcoming new year in Vietnam.

Still, Ngo wanted to do more. This year she started Cross Border Wear, a company that designs clothes for children, including dresses and casual clothing, and offers some jewelry and home décor online at Fifty percent of proceeds go to help disadvantaged children in Vietnam to help them get education and improve their lives through donations.

UW-Stout alumni who work with Ngo at Cross Border Wear include:

• Isabel Korab, designer and product coordinator and a December 2017 graduate in apparel design and development, Minneapolis

• Alexi Moreno, a May graduate in apparel design and development who is an intern at the company helping with product development, Marshfield

• Susanna Gauger, digital marketing coordinator who is a senior studying digital marketing technology at UW-Stout, Knapp

• Nkao Hle Hang, volunteer, a sophomore at UW-Stout studying apparel design and development, Sheboygan

• Brittany Obitz, intern, a senior in apparel design and development, Glenwood City

The apparel design and development program prepares students for careers in apparel fashion design, technical design, fabric specialists, trend managing, quality assurance managing, global sourcing, logistics, and production engineering. The program typically has 100 percent employment among recent graduates.

Korab and Ngo met in an apparel design class about three years ago. “I minored in sustainability,” Korab said. “I wanted to work for a company working toward a greater cause. We need to be thinking about not only caring for the planet but its people too.”

When Ngo has an idea, Korab works with her to refine and create the design. “Most people put on clothes without thinking about where it comes from, who designs it or who makes it. I am working for a company that not just says they are helping people; we have Vivian with a personal connection to make change.”

Gauger said she feels very fortunate to be part of the mission and goals of Cross Border Wear.  “Personally, working at Cross Border allows me to not only put my education to work but also be a part of helping children in need,” Gauger said.

“I think whenever you can be a part of a company that aligns with your morals and values it will make it a much more rewarding experience. Having very young nieces and nephews myself, whenever I see pictures or hear stories from Vivian about the orphans in Vietnam I think about the little ones in my family and how I hope to be a good example and make a difference for those less fortunate. I love watching Cross Border grow. Startups are exciting but challenging, and it’s been really cool to be challenged working for Cross Border and learning how to problem-solve,” Gauger said.

The clothing is sewn by seamstresses in Vietnam, helping provide funds to families there and better their lives, Ngo said.

Moreno said she also was drawn to Cross Border Wear because of its goal to help children. “It makes you feel better for the job you are doing,” Moreno said. “You are helping someone else. It’s a small company so you get to do a lot more.”

Working with UW-Stout students and graduates has been an asset to Cross Border Wear, said Ngo, who moved from Vietnam 15 years ago.

“Without the UW-Stout students I don’t think this company could have grown this far,” she said. “We are all young and passionate about what we’re doing. It’s not just about a piece of clothing. It’s a passion to teach kids to help other kids and change the world.”

For the future, Cross Border Wear is in the process of getting the company’s clothing into fashion boutique stores. In July the company took part in the Dare to Care Fashion Show at the Menomonie Golf and Country Club where clothing lines were modeled from the company. 

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