The Founder - Meet Belange Mutunda

From Being Bullied to Death to Becoming A Serial Entrepreneur, Visionary Fashion Designer and Philanthropist : Meet 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 multi-award winning individual, black woman, and mother 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 is 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 an illustrious journey of a decade, Belange's story is one of resilience, determination, and a relentless pursuit of excellence. 
 
Early Life

Belange's remarkable fashion journey began in 2014 in her home country, The Democratic Republic of Congo, at the age of 17 when she discovered her talent for fashion and design. During that time, she was in her senior high school year majoring in Mathematics and Physics and fashion design was not in her plans as she aspired to become an engineer like her father.

Nevertheless, her god-given talent in handcraft came to her three months before she graduated from high school and she went on to launch her apparel brand, Belange Handmade, with a mere $10 in capital. She embarked on her entrepreneurial path by creating unique handmade pieces including handbags, backpacks, wallets, and jewelry made from repurposed clothes and plastic bottles, and quickly gained popularity among her peers in high school. Amidst the burgeoning success, Belange faced the daunting challenge of severe bullying, an adversity that she resiliently transformed into a source of motivation.

In an era before the prevalence of social media marketing, Belange's unique pieces gained widespread acclaim through the powerful channels of word of mouth and quickly became the talk of her small town Likasi, which expanded her clientele beyond her high-school clients. Defying the odds, she turned detractors into devoted customers, weaving an empowering narrative of triumph over adversity.

Moving to America To Pursue Her American Dream
Driven by her passion and desire to refine her skills, Belange embarked on a transformative educational journey and moved to the United States in 2015. She attended Des Moines Area Community College (DMACC) from 2016 to 2018 where she obtained her Associate of Applied Science in Fashion Design and Merchandising. Alongside her fashion studies, Belange pursued courses in business, marketing, sales, and interior design, further expanding her knowledge and expertise in the business side of fashion. While attending DMACC as a full-time student, Belange also worked in retail for brands such as Banana Republic, Old Navy, Gap, and Levi's to gain retail experience.
Belange later attended Iowa State University from 2018 to 2020, where she pursued a Bachelor of Science in Apparel, Merchandising, and Design. During her time at Iowa State University, Belange's exceptional academic performance and dedication to her craft were recognized. She served as an Undergraduate  Pattern Making Teaching Assistant ( Course AMD 225)  and a 3D Designer Teacher Assistant (Course AMD 310)  at the prestigious College of Human Sciences in the Apparel, Merchandising and Design program. In this role,   Belange introduced CLO3D and 3D virtual fashion to the fashion design major during the covid-19 pandemic, showcasing her forward-thinking approach and innovation within the field.
Additionally, Belange was awarded multiple business grants, awards, accolades and news coverage from this institution as she won several business contests. Her commitment to excellence earned her the distinction of being named the Fall 2020 University Student Marshall and Graduating Senior of the Year with a remarkable GPA of 3.80 (Magna Cum Laude).

Seeking to enhance her expertise, Belange pursued a Master of Professional Studies in Fashion Marketing at LIM College in New York City in 2022, achieving outstanding academic success with a GPA of 3.97 (Summa Cum Laude). Her coursework at LIM College introduced her to Fashion Licensing, leading to the successful negotiation of licensing contracts with various retailers. Notably, she secured a significant collaboration with SHEIN, the world's largest online retailer, for a perpetual clothing line starting September 11, 2023.

A Distinguished Alumnus & Advisory Board Member 

On October 17, 2023, Belange was honored and awarded the 2023 Early Achievement Award as a Distinguished Alumnus of the Des Moines Area Community College. This award was bestowed upon her for her exemplary personal and professional achievements as well as volunteer work in her Community. Additionally, her professional contribution as an Advisory Board Member in the Fashion Designer program at her alma mater since February 2022 was highlighted and celebrated at the prestigious event.

Ph.D. Journey and Future Aspirations

In 2024, driven by her commitment to continuous learning, Belange returned to her Alma Mater, Iowa State University, to embark on a Ph.D. journey. Her research focuses on Entrepreneurship, E-commerce, and Sustainability, reflecting her dedication to contributing valuable insights to the field. Belange aspires to become a college professor, imparting her knowledge to future fashion entrepreneurs.

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