If you haven’t already heard the glowing reviews about Mandarina shoes, then read on. Annabel and I have been firm fans of this niche brand for several years. Founded by Caroline Townsend in 2005 when she was in her mid-forties, her top tip for women over 50 is “Resist frumpiness at all costs!” – one of the many reasons we like her and her fabulous shoes!
Mandarina is based at the foot of the Angus Glens in rural Scotland, by a loch and 15 minutes from glorious white sandy beaches. This is where Caroline works with a small team, designing quirky, colourful styles that are appreciated by an ever-growing tribe of very loyal Mandarina shoe collectors, including royalty and celebrities.
Many of Mandarina Shoes are handmade limited editions, often using exotic fabrics that Caroline has sourced during her travels. Last year during lockdown, for example, she resourcefully made 12 pairs using a stunning 1950’s vintage skirt that once belonged to her mother. On a practical note, the shoes have non-slip soles, vibrant coloured linings and the fabrics are coated for weather resistancy.
During lockdown, and despite everyone working from home, Mandarina has gone from strength to strength during the pandemic.
The company’s focus moved from exquisite formal shoes to more casual styles that we can all enjoy wearing at home. The Chelsea boots with their colourful flashes are perennially popular.
However, now that we all have light at the end of the tunnel and social occasions are a distinct possibility by early summer, her wedding shoes, pretty summer ballerinas and kitten heels are also back in high demand.
We are happy to announce an exclusive A&G discount. Just use AG10 at the Mandarina Shoes checkout for 10% off your chosen shoes.
We love to bring brands to life for A&G readers, so read on to find out what makes Caroline tick:
Family life & career My design studio and mailing room is a converted gardener’s bothy at my family home in Scotland. I commute out of the kitchen door and down the garden path.
What age do you feel right now? I am conscious of that cruel expression that there is no-one more invisible than a middle aged woman. Well, pooh to that! I don’t feel middle aged in the slightest bit and I certainly hope I am not invisible. It is only when I look in the mirror that I am sadly reminded of the inescapable truth that I am now the wrong side of 55.
What do you like to do in your free time? Picking and arranging flowers for the house from our beautiful old fashioned walled garden and Victorian greenhouse is one of my greatest pleasures all year round – it is amazing what you can find even in winter. Sailing after work with my husband Hugh in our little Swallows & Amazons wooden dinghy on the loch is also a joy. Oh, and as odd as it may sound, I love cleaning (OCD tendencies)!
And your most favourite item in your wardrobe? Without hesitation my most favourite garment is an orange patterned Indian kantha coat from my friend Indigo Boo, it is virtually threadbare through wear. A soft blue pashmina bought in Arezzo comes a close second – I wear it non-stop as it works with practically everything.
What could you not live without? I could not live without my black and tan miniature long haired dachshund Pocket. We have always had dschshunds as our Mandarina mascot.
Do you have a favourite beauty product? My hot pink ‘Ellen’ matt lipstick by Jane Iredale and a large bottle of Cristalle by Chanel. I literally feel undressed without them.
What is your beauty tip? Don’t wear too much make up, I feel for me it can be very ageing. I never wear foundation only a bit of pressed powder or bronzer from Mac. I wash my face with water and a waffle cotton cloth.
Do you cook and do you have a favoured skill? I can do a good hearty roast in the Aga and make a nifty Victoria Sponge. People are always rather impressed by cakes – it is handy life skill!
What is your favourite food? Fresh langoustines from our friendly local trawler man in Arbroath are my favourite food, served with generous amounts of lemon mayonnaise and a bottle of chilled Sancerre. Perfecto.
Can you tell us some of your favourite books? My favourite book is Gerald Durrell’s My Family and other Animals although dated, I still find it absolutely hilarious. Like him, I used to relate better to animals than humans growing up. More recently I have just finished All the Light You Cannot See by Anthony Doerr – a quite superb novel about the siege of St Malo and the bravery of those involved with illicit radio transmissions during the French resistance.
Who do you most admire or are grateful to? Without question the person I am most grateful to is my husband Hugh. He saved me at a low point with his wicked wit and megawatt smile, neither of which ever fade. (A more than passing resemblance to Hugh Grant is an added bonus).
Can you give us your top tip for #womenover50? Enjoy life every day, because there is always something around the corner to bite you on the bottom.
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