Belange Mutunda - CEO/ Founder/Owner
Her life's quote: " I ditched engineering school to follow my dreams in fashion. I could have been a good Engineer, but I love that I am a great Designer now. Oh, by the way, I graduated from Youtube Fashion Institute before I ever attended a real fashion school! ahaha".
Belange Handmade was founded by Belange Mutunda, born and raised in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, in March 2014.
At only 17-years-old and without proper knowledge of fashion or business, Belange independently launched her Apparel brand based on up-cycled products as she saw the need in the market for sustainable fashion. The fun fact about her is that she is a self-made fashion designer. She majored in Mathematics and Physics in high school and dreamed of becoming a Chemical Engineer like her father. As a result, she quickly became the talk of the small town of Likasi, and her business would skyrocket from there through word of mouth.
Despite her God-given talent, Belange chose to attend fashion school in college to better her craft. Thus, at the age of 19, she would migrate to the USA to attend Des Moines Area Community College and Iowa State University. She earned multiple degrees from both institutions, including a Bachelor's of Science in Apparel, Merchandising, and Design; an Associate of Applied Science in Fashion Design and Merchandising; and an Associate in General Studies. She coupled her degrees with business, marketing, sales, and interior design courses.
During her time at Iowa State, Belange was a Pattern Making Teaching Assistant and a 3D Designer Teacher Assistant at the College of Human Sciences. At the end of her academic journey, Belange would be recognized as the Fall 2020 University Student Marshall and Graduating Senior of the Year for earning a high GPA ( Magna Cum Laude) and introducing 3D Design and 3D virtual Fashion in the Design major.
ABOUT BELANGE HANDMADE
Belange Handmade, also known as BHM, is an Afrocentric slow fashion brand providing high-quality apparel to women seeking timeless pieces for special occasions and everyday life that will accompany them at every turn of their lives.
BHM used to be an accessory brand providing handbags and wallets made from deadstock materials until 2018, when the founder would branch out in clothing. This would mark the beginning of a fantastic journey in the clothing/ costume industry for Belange. By the time the COVID-19 pandemic hit in 2020, it had become a lucky break for BHM to rediscover itself and get rebranded into a high-end ready-to-wear brand merging Afrocentric fashion and Western Trends.
OUR CORE VALUES :
"SIC" short for Sustainability, Inclusion, and Community Service
We understand that sustainable fashion is not a trend but a way of living, here to stay. Therefore, we have been committed to eliminating material waste in our production process by reusing deadstock materials and fabric remnants from our past projects or other businesses'. But what is sustainability without conscious consumers? So we have been utilizing our social-media platforms to educate our customers about our best practices and eco-friendly values. The result is a happier and educated population, a healthier planet!
We are conscious that we live in a racially divided world where discrimination goes from the roots of a company to the customers, especially in the Fashion Industry. Our goal as a brand is to break this generational problem by becoming a bridge for people of all ethnicities to become one. We are welcome to people of all races, genders, sexual orientations, religious beliefs, and body shapes, evident from our current employees and the customers we serve.
Community outreach: Fashion goes beyond style and generating wealth; it could be a helping hand!
We believe that our duty goes beyond dressing consumers and generating wealth, but it also involves addressing community issues we could help with. Since 2019, our leading community service has been fighting Period Poverty, which means the lack of access to adequate menstrual supplies due to poverty in rural areas in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
We founded our organization, the BHM Foundation, and created our first reusable menstrual pads called EVE, which aligns with the sustainable values of our brand. Our organization aims to create a safe space for women to get educated about menstruation and feminine hygiene and provide free period kits, including our pads EVE. Our foundation is relatively new and only operational in the D.R. Congo, where all charitable activities are held, but we hope to expand our actions to other countries soon. We know that we may not rescue all women globally, but we believe change should start somewhere, even if our efforts are still small.