I wonder how many of these beautiful shoes were worn for the many Jubilee parties over the weekend?
Mandarina are definitely the shoes of choice for fabulous weddings and parties, all over the world, and these comfy cotton twill flats in patriotic red, white and blue were made in honour of HM The Queen’s Platinum Jubilee 2022. The owner, Caroline Townsend, worked in Hong Kong for the Home Journal magazine for ten years, then spent another 10 years living in the Philippines, Singapore and Vietnam. She loved every minute and this is where her interest in textiles and fashion began.
‘I started collecting amazing fabrics and accessories on our Asian travels. I was drawn to the rich colours, patterns and textures and used the pieces for decorating, tablecloths, clothes or throws’ she recalls. ‘Then, when we were living in Vietnam, I had the ‘lightbulb moment’ of thinking ‘why not make a range of shoes out of exquisite cloth?’ Caroline found a skilled manufacturer just south of Saigon and has been working with the small family-run factory there for 16 years now. ‘Mandarina has grown exponentially over this time. It is a truly global brand now – that is the power of the internet.’
We covered her amazing story and beautiful home for Period Living magazine last month. Caroline took over Reswallie house in 2003. It been in her family for three generations. Interestingly it has come down through the female line. ‘At the time my parents wanted to pass it on, my two older brothers had very established lives in the South and it did not suit them to move North. I was relocating from the Far East following my divorce, so it made sense for me to take it on’ she explains.
The picturesque estate is situated in Angus, to the east of the Highlands. The train to London from Aberdeen ran through the grounds until the branch lines were decommissioned in 1969. Reswallie was a ‘request stop’ – if you called ahead to the signalman in Montrose it would stop specially. ‘We spent our Summer’s here every year and always used to play dangerous games along the railway track. Like Granny’s hens we were entirely free range, as long as we turned up for meals when bidden by the hunting horn, we could do pretty much what we liked’ she laughs. ‘There was no concession to health and safety in those days!’
The interior of the house and Caroline’s business have evolved from her combined love of travel and textiles. ‘The one hinges entirely on the other; it is a great synergy. I can collect the one whilst doing the other – especially as I am now married to someone in the travel business.’ Caroline’s husband Hugh Graham-Watson, is director of the acclaimed travel website The Hotel Guru. Between them they have 4 grown up children, and 2 miniature dachshunds, Pocket and Bean. There are many pieces in the house which represent their dual interests. Mandarina’s best-selling marigold-pattern loafers this season are an example – made from the off-cuts of the Bombay Sprout fabric used for the bathroom blinds!
Caroline is the first to admit that taking on Reswallie after a busy city-centred life spent abroad was often overwhelming, but the building works and the children kept her focussed and busy. ‘My parents lived next door in the converted farm steadingand they were a huge support, but no doubt looked on at all the changes with a degree of horror and trepidation!’ Caroline met and married Hugh 6 years ago and the reinvented Reswallie has now truly come into its own. Always full of people and laughter, and with lovingly tended grounds. ‘We had the joy of combining two households with all that that entails. Every cupboard is now crammed with double everything. We are hoping one of our four children will set up house soon and relieve us of some clutter!’
Thanks to Hugh’s job as director of the Hotel Guru, Caroline continues to travel, visiting unique, independent hotels all over the world, finding inspiration for both her home and her shoe designs. “We have fantastic trips and wherever we go, whether it’s Essaouria or Ibiza I come back with fabrics and linens that I can use in the house or for my shoe designs.’
Caroline also finds inspiration locally. She designed a delightful Summer collection using Inchyra Linens which are woven and printed in Scotland, Caroline and Caroline Inchyra are old school friends, the blinds in the dining area above are made up in ‘Sage Speedwell’ a Linen from Inchyra. She also works a lot with Harris Tweed. ‘Harris Tweed is a remarkable cloth, not only for the richness and subtlety of the patterns and colours’ she explains, ‘but it is warm, robust and naturally water repellent – made for shoes and boots in fact!’
Hugh and Caroline’s art collection brings another injection of colour and vitality to their home. ‘My brother is the well-known contemporary artist, Peter Lloyd-Jones‘ she shares. The beautiful painting above of the dining area hangs in the dining area! ‘He has been quite an influence on my style and taste. We like similar things.’ Based in the Costwolds, Peter’s wife, Victoria Rees, is also a well-known artist and textile designer. She has worked as Artist in Residence to the Garsington Opera Festival, now held in Wormsley Park, home of the Getty family in Buckinghamshire. ‘My nephew George Lloyd-Jones is also an extremely talented painter. His works are very large scale. We just need to find some wall space big enough to hang them….’
Also central to Reswallie interiors are the abundant cut flowers. ‘Picking flowers and greenery for the house is a great joy of mine. It’s almost like a therapy. Winter or Summer I find things to pick in the walled garden, greenhouse or woodland. I like unstructured, abundant arrangements’ Caroline shares. ‘A loosely arranged jug of cow parsley or foxgloves is almost more appealing to me than a vase of straight-stemmed lilies.” For many people flowers are the finishing touch, but for Caroline, they are her starting point, bringing the outside in, all year round. ‘I love to collect things and create vignettes and vistas. Garden flowers ensure an interior never becomes sterile or overly co-ordinated’ she states.
This an old mansion house after all, but despite its grandeur it has minimal formality, rather, it is a highly colourful, original and welcoming family home. It serves as a base for both her and Hugh’s businesses and a fabulous second home for their grown-up children, who live in London and New York. One part of the house is also used as self-catering holiday accommodation.
The grounds that the property is set in are probably the star of the show, originally Reswallie had extensive tenant farms, but these were sold off in 1947 leaving 120 acres of pasture, arable and mature woodland, plus the walled flower and vegetable garden.
Without guidance from Pocket and Bean, you really could get lost, but the friendly pair will soon find you and take you to the magical spot where Caroline has arranged her latest gathering. It might be one of the extensive Victorian greenhouses or a charming fishing hut, all perfect for both lively parties or some quiet contemplation.
A gentle walk through the wooded grounds and along the disused railway track takes you down to the River Lunan and nearby trout loch where Caroline and Hugh keep a rowing boat and sailing dinghy.
Whatever happens, a bit like her majesty herself, Caroline will welcome you warmly and fly the flag!
Best of British to you all at this historic time. I hope you had a gladdening Jubilee weekend, whether it was restful and quiet or extremely indulgent and very, very badly behaved – I am sure it was brilliant – that is what makes us great actually and I speak from broad experience – anything goes!!