Jane Duval is one of the industry’s foremost model scouts, having discovered dozens of successful models including Alexa Chung, and has placed new faces with some of London’s top agencies.
How did you get started?
I started scouting 14 years ago. A friend had opened a men’s division and asked me to take a camera and cards and scout any potential boys while I was at Festival that summer. It was completely new territory for me but I tried and scouted two boys who I felt had potential. I placed their polaroid’s on my friends desk a few days later, both boys, to my surprise, were signed by her agency. After this I grew an immense passion and a taste for scouting girls and boys. I worked really hard and over a short period of time and became known in the industry. I received a call from the director of Next Model Management who invited me in to discuss my scouting. I was offered a position as Head of Scouting London. During this time I discovered some great talent still with successful careers, like Alexa Chung who I discovered that year at Reading Festival. After working for Next and then Select models for several years, then became an independent scout. At present I have been working exclusively with IMG Models on girls where I know I will stay for the remainder of my career.
Agency scouts can be territorial at big events and concerts, how do you secure a new find in the field before the competition does?
As a scout you often find you are at the same events as other agencies and scouting the same potential talents. I would not scout an event that is exclusive to another agency as I don’t scout to compete. I like to do my own events. When you find a potential girl/boy there is not much time to talk to them as they are often with friends and in a rush to get to their concert, sporting activity, or festival. I feel it is imperative to connect with them, however brief it may be. I am never pushy as it is important they understand there is no pressure and is very informal. I always take the parents contact details, and hold back on taking a picture. I have to try to understand the personality as this can often frighten them off. Only if they are honestly comfortable would I attempt to ask for the picture. I feel being a women helps as girls often feel more relaxed talking to me. Being kind is always something that does stick with the talent I scout. I always follow up with the parents so I can explain what I do, what the next steps would be if they were interested in looking into the opportunity, and to mainly reassure them. I would then organise an initial meeting with the agency, and it all goes from there. It is a lot easier today to scout as the new generation are very aware of modelling agencies due to the increase in social media coverage. The big name models are very approachable on social networking sites such as Twitter and Facebook so the girls follow their careers so often know what I am discussing with them.There have been several occasions where I have scouted a girls that have also been scouted by several agencies in the same day. So far I have been very lucky that all sign with me.
The modeling industry has a faster turnover of fresh faces, can you help to increase a models longevity?
As a mother agent my first priority with my talent is making sure they are comfortable with their progress and career plan. Each girl/boy is different with different stories. Some are still studying so it is important modelling does not interfere with their school or university work. Some girls can become a full time model straight away, and others take longer. IMG are great and supportive of every talents specific situations. Often once launched the industry can move quickly if the girl/guy gets a good reaction, this is why you have to be ready.
How do you feel when you see your discoveries heading major campaigns?
Seeing your talent heading a big campaign is always something you will never forget as you know how hard they have worked to get there. It’s the same feeling when you see a talent in a store window for example knowing you have been part of the career and helping and guiding them to become a professional model. I get the same satisfaction seeing the very first test shooting, it’s so interesting seeing the transformation from the first Polaroid in a field at a festival, to a studio shoot. You get a lot of emotional gain in this job!
What attributes should a young model have to survive the industry?
I feel it is really important to make sure they fully understand the fashion industry. It is hard work yet a fantastic industry to be in. There are lots of aspects which are important at the beginning such as time keeping, always being presentable, being organised, and understanding it is a career and you have to act professionally. There is a lot of hard work and money that goes into every shoot. It is also very important for the talent to enjoy what they are doing. You get to travel, and meet some of the most talented people with each shoot and to be part of the creative process can be a wonderful experience. I do like to think the people I have scouted over the years have charisma which is a great characteristic. I always knew Alexa had something a little special about her, she had a unique personality, I always believed in her from the start.