Fashion Designer/ CEO of Belange Handmade LLC (www.shopbhm.com)
Belange Mutunda attended DMACC from 2016-2018 where she earned her AAS in Fashion Design and Merchandising, coupled with some business, marketing and interior design courses. After graduating, Belange transferred to Iowa State University to continue to learn the skills needed to be a successful fashion designer. She entered their Apparel Merchandising & Design program and continues to focus on a degree in Creative and Technical Design. In addition to being a full-time student, she has made time to run her own fashion business, be a teaching assistant, and give back to the community.
During her time at DMACC, Belange traveled to New York City for a weeklong study tour. “The New York City study tour was one of the things that stands out as the most memorable experiences at DMACC" says Belange. It was here that she was able to meet Thijin Bol, an EMG model, who has been a standing cast member on Project Runway. Bol even wore one of her African print dresses on episode 12, season 17. (Check out the clip here)
Belange has always been a proactive person and she isn't afraid to take risks. She has competed in numerous start-up and entrepreneurial competitions, and won! In 2019, she showcased her collection at the “RAW Hollywood presents impact 2019" show. Later that year, she showcased her first evening gown collection at Des Moines Fashion Week.
She was also one of 13 contestants to be awarded a grant for her small business, Belange Handmade LLC, through The Great Iowa State Pitch Off. At this event she won the Social/ Civil Award and received $2500 for her business, that she started at the age of 17. She also competed in another pitch-off for entrepreneurs at Iowa State University where she was runner up and received a $250 grant.
This money helped her to start a non-profit organization called the BHM Foundation, that aims to provide reusable menstrual pads to women and young girls in need. She calls the pad “eve" and created it after developing and testing several prototypes over the last three years. Today, she distributes the pads in the United States and Africa.
Learn more about this project here.
Oh, and we're not done talking about this amazing woman!
She has been a guest speaker at the Iowa State University Women's Entrepreneurship Week conference, where she was able to share her journey in fashion design and business.
Applied for The Fashion Scholarship Fund – Case Study, where she won in the design category, and received a $5000 grant. This opportunity allowed her to travel New York City and attend their annual gala. While at the Gala, Belange met one of her biggest inspirations, celebrity designer Brandon Maxwell.
When asked about her experience in DMACC Fashion Program, Belange said; “Overall, I had an amazing collegiate experience at DMACC because my professors became good friends and are like family to me today. Attending DMACC also made me have a very smooth transition to Iowa State University."
Shelby Lane is a 2015 graduate of the DMACC Fashion Institute where she earned her degree in Fashion. Recently, she returned to DMACC and completed classes to earn a certificate in Photography. Today, Shelby has her own photography business, Shelby Lane Photography, and is the Assistant Manager at Mark’s Dancewear, a dancewear retailer in Johnston, Iowa.
Shelby has expressed that she appreciated the business foundation she received while in the fashion program. The knowledge and skills she gained in her business, management, and marketing classes have been important to her success at Mark’s Dancewear and in starting her own business.
One of the highlights of Shelby’s time at DMACC was the study tour to New York City, where they met with businesses and professional in the fashion industry. Additionally, Shelby says, “Another thing that stands out about the program is how connected the faculty and staff are with the fashion industry in the Des Moines area.”
You can follow her business at @ShelbyLanePhotograghpy on both Facebook and Instagram. Mark’s Dancewear can also be followed on both Facebook and Instagram at @marksdancewear.
Aliza Akers-Miller is a 2018 graduate of the DMACC Fashion Institute with a degree in Fashion and a certificate in Fashion Styling. Today, she is the proud owner of Za’s Closet & Lips By Za.
During her time at DMACC, she gained technical skills in product design, merchandising, and promotion. She participated in the fashion club, volunteer projects, and study tours. Aliza took what she gained from DMACC and applied it to her personal and professional life.
Today, she spends countless hours working to make her two businesses a success. Aliza’s online boutique,
Za’s Closet, is inspired by 90’s street fashion mixed with today’s modern styles. As a proud black business owner, Aliza has been making Black Lives Matter clothing, accessories, and décor to show her support to the Black Lives Matter movement.
She also owns an online natural beauty brand, called
Lips By Za. Aliza is passionate about beauty products that are homemade, vegan, organic, and cruelty free – And, that is exactly what you’ll find in the Lips By Za products!
In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, Aliza stepped up by donating her time and resources to sew face masks for people on the front lines. She understands the importance of a strong community and giving back where she can.
Aliza feels she has been able to get where she is now because of the skills and life lessons that she has been taught, and the connections she has made. She feels that DMACC was a huge steppingstone that helped guide her to where she is now, and where she wants to go in the future. “The connections I made with instructors and fellow students are still strong to this day.” Aliza says.
On top of her accomplishments above, Aliza has continued her education and is now attending Full State University online. She is working to obtain her BA in Audio Production, with a focus on music. Before she wanted to become a fashion designer, she wanted to become a music producer. She feels furthering her education is the first step in that direction.
To learn more about Aliza’s companies, please visit
https://lipsbyza.bigcartel.com. You can also follow her on Facebook (@ZasClosett & @LipsByZa) and Instagram (@Zas_Closet_ & @Lips_By_Za).