The Founder - Meet Belange Mutunda

From Overcoming Adversity to Shaping the Future: The Inspiring Journey of Belange Mutunda
"As a fashion designer, my role extends beyond just creating extravagant pieces of clothing. It also involves addressing the issues faced by our society, both within and outside of the fashion industry. This is why I strive to be actively involved in community projects so that I can do my part to ensure a better future for those I serve, and the world we inhabit." - Belange Mutunda; CEO, Founder & Fashion Designer
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Belange Mutunda is a multi-award-winning fashion designer whose creative vision and passion for fashion have propelled her to the forefront of the fashion industry in the United States. Belange's fashion aesthetic and brand DNA are renowned for conversational vibrant designs, bold styles, and pops of colors. Additionally, her commitment to addressing social issues both within and beyond the fashion world never goes unnoticed. With a journey of a decade, Belange's story is one of resilience, determination, and a relentless pursuit of excellence

Early Life

Belange Mutunda's remarkable journey began in the Democratic Republic of Congo in 2014, at 17 years old. Though on track to become an engineer like her father, her design talent blossomed just three months before graduating high school. With only $10, Belange launched her brand, Belange Handmade, creating unique pieces from repurposed materials. Despite facing bullying, her talent and entrepreneurial spirit won over her classmates, turning her hometown of Likasi into a buzz with word-of-mouth marketing.

Moving to the United States to Pursue Her American Dream

Driven by her passion and desire to refine her skills, Belange moved to the United States in 2015. While pursuing her Associate's degree in Fashion Design and Merchandising at Des Moines Area Community College (DMACC) from 2016 to 2018, she gained valuable experience working in retail for brands like Banana Republic and Old Navy. She further expanded her knowledge with courses in business and marketing.

Belange's dedication continued at Iowa State University (2018-2020) where she earned her Bachelor's degree in Apparel, Merchandising, and Design. There, she excelled academically, even serving as a teaching assistant, showcasing her leadership and commitment to her craft. Specifically, she held roles as an Undergraduate Pattern-making Teaching Assistant (Course AMD 225) and a 3D Designer Teaching Assistant (Course AMD 310) within the prestigious College of Human Sciences' Apparel, Merchandising and Design program. In this role, Belange demonstrably championed innovation by introducing CLO3D and 3D virtual fashion to the fashion design major during the challenging times of the COVID-19 pandemic. Her achievements were further recognized with multiple business grants, awards, accolades, and news coverage from Iowa State University. Belange's relentless pursuit of excellence culminated in her being named the Fall 2020 University Student Marshall and Graduating Senior of the Year, graduating Magna Cum Laude with a remarkable GPA of 3.80.

Seeking even more expertise, Belange went on to complete her Master's degree in Fashion Marketing at LIM College in New York City in 2022, graduating with the highest honors and an outstanding GPA of 3.97 (Summa Cum Laude). This experience equipped her with knowledge in fashion licensing and led to a significant collaboration with SHEIN, the world's largest online retailer, for a clothing line launching in September 2023.

A Distinguished Alumnus, Advisory Board Member, and Ph.D. Student

Belange's dedication extends beyond fashion. In recognition of her achievements and community work, she was honored as a Distinguished Alumna by Des Moines Area Community College in October 2023 where she received the 2023 Alumni Early Achievement Award. Currently serving as an Advisory Board Member in their Fashion Design program, Belange remains passionate about giving back. This commitment to lifelong learning led her back to Iowa State University in 2024 to pursue a Ph.D. focused on Entrepreneurship, E-commerce, and Sustainability. Through her research and future career as a professor, Belange aspires to empower future generations of fashion entrepreneurs.

Click here to view Belange's full Merit page.
 
Learn more about her story in this short documentary