Palmer Mutandwa is a showstopper. One of Melbourne’s best dressed gentleman and perhaps Zimbabwe’s most dapper export, the style star and three-time Fashions on the Field winner has invested his tailoring expertise into co-founding bespoke suiting brand Button Brothers.
The visionary can now add womenswear designer to his extensive sartorial CV as B.Bella launched this April, extending the perfect fit to his female following. FATR tracked down the Button Brothers Director and Co-Founder in Johannesburg to talk tailoring trends and tips ahead of Spring Carnival.
“Growing up in a Christian family, Sunday best was a must,” Palmer said. “I initially hated the formality of church but after many years I decided to embrace it and make it my own,” he said. “By the age of 15, I had started collecting my grandfather’s old suits and getting my mum to tailor them to fit me.”
Palmer’s relationship with racing blossomed as an old work colleague recommended he enter Fashions on the Field as she recognised his passion for menswear. “I resisted the recommendation for three years and eventually gave in,” Palmer said. “In 2013 I attended my first ever race day, entered Fashions on the Field and won,” he said. “From that day I’ve been a serial race day goer.”
Soon after his big win, Palmer began touting his looks on social media. “My friends and I enjoy dressing up and wanted a platform to share our passion,” Palmer said. “We also initially used it as a vehicle to influence menswear in Australia,” he said. “Now we are a luxury made-to-measure men’s tailoring business.”
The line features two labels to ensure the brand caters for all budgets without compromising on fabric. “Button Brothers black label is the Rolls Royce of our suiting, the crème de la crème,” Palmer said. “It’s made in Naples in partnership with a third generation tailoring family,” he said. “It boasts extensive handwork and all the bells and whistles of Neapolitan tailoring.”
“Our white label continues to boast high quality, made in Thailand in a state-of-the-art facility using English and Italian fabrics,” Palmer said. “This product is predominantly machine made with small details done by hand and this reflects in the price difference of the two labels.”
Most recently, the designer unveiled a new addition to the Button Brothers brands with his family in mind. B.Bella is for the smart, strong and confident woman, just like Palmer’s mother. “My mum and sisters were the inspiration of Bella,” Palmer said. “These special women in my life are tall and curvaceous and struggled to find clothes and suits that fit, so after creating a few pieces for them, we saw the opportunity for Bella.”
“Women’s suits are powerful when tailored appropriately,” Palmer said. “The silhouettes in suits compliment women’s bodies in a very powerful and sophisticated manner,” he said. “Besides being extremely stylish, they are quite functional and comfortable especially when the weather isn’t favourable.”
Palmer wants you to let the fit speak first when styling a suit for your next race day. “I think the trick with nailing a strong outfit when wearing a suit is to keep it simple, the styling of the suit will depend on each woman as all bodies are different but a single button, peak lapel suit with high-waisted pants will compliment most women,” he said. “Adding a wide brim hat or fascinator with hair slicked back and a nice pair of heels will put icing on the cake.”
This spring, Palmer anticipates a resurgence of natural hues in his Button Brothers collections. “Going through our latest fabric books, we see a lot of neutral and earthy tones in cotton, so we will see khaki, brown and crème cotton suits,” Palmer said. “Navy seersucker suits, linen and solaro will also make an appearance this spring/summer due to their versatility and functionality in the summer heat.”
When putting together a menswear ensemble for a day at the track, Palmer first considers the event’s history. “We use this as a base and creatively build from that by incorporating different fabric textures and patterns while thinking out of the box,” Palmer said. “After figuring out the fabric we then incorporate the necessary accessories including hat, socks and pocket square.”
Palmer prefers to draw attention to one or two aspects of the outfit to avoid confusion, ensuring he and his clients stay sharp. “Pant hem length is by far the biggest culprit of tailoring mistakes,” Palmer said. “Some guys are really wearing ¾ pants on the park.”
Forecasting Spring Carnival fashion, Palmer expects to see more women in pastel and nude suiting, naming Nick Russian and Jennifer Hawkins his most consistent racewear stars. “I feel the men will continue with separate jacket and pants, especially on Derby Day as they try to jazz up the strict conservative black and white.”
For the best in bespoke stye, stay in touch with Palmer on Instagram @ButtonBrothers or click here to satiate your suiting needs.