From tales of discovery outside festival tents, inside Crouch End pubs, and from behind the wheel of her beloved green Figaro, Jane Duval is the eyes behind some of the fashion industry’s most successful faces. Guided by a holistic and gentle approach to scouting and managing, Duval has successfully nurtured models throughout their careers, working with top agencies, and acting not just as mother agent, but often as a friend and therapist too. Duval scouted me at seventeen for a magical first job shooting an Elizabeth Emanuel collection, before placing me with TESS Management in London.
Words by Lois Freeman. Portrait by Ricardo Neves.
Duval began aged 32, “nervously creeping” into a friend’s agency with “two fresh-faced boys” who she believed “had It”. Both boys were signed, and Duval was hooked. At the Isle of Wight Festival, she searched the crowds with a digital camera and left having discovered just one model. At Reading Festival, Duval found fifteen models and sent off their photos to London agencies. Within six months she was headhunted by Next Models with an impressive portfolio of faces. Duval’s career reputation rose and rose and she developed a unique and considered perception of the potential that the people she passed on the streets had and she searched for inspiring faces in London’s West End and relished in the unpredictable nature of finding models as they were running for a bus or wandering down supermarket aisles. I myself have spent time on the phone with Duval before the call is hastily ended as a potential model has caught her gaze.
News of Duval’s discerning eye had travelled across the industry and lead her to Select Models, who she describes as having had a “different energy at that time”. It was an agency “front-runner” whose models were regularly announced as supermodels. This was an exciting moment to be a scout. During this period, Duval scouted Alexa Chung drawing outside the comedy tent at Reading festival. Although she initially required some persuading, Chung became a pivotal find in Duval’s career, and Duval was the first to see a spark that skyrocketed Chung into the spotlight. Chung secured a job hosting Popworld with Alex Zane in 2006 before becoming an international model and ‘It’ girl.
At 38, Duval met Fiona Ellis, the world’s top scout at the time, who had discovered the likes of Alek Wek and Erin O’Connor. Alongside Sian Steele and Tori Edwards, who currently run TESS Model Management, Ellis was the figure-head of ICM Models – described by Duval as an agency with “a little more edge and a slower pace” that enabled her to step back and refine her scouting further. Duval travelled widely and judged modelling competitions, finding the winner of ‘Ireland’s Next Top Model’ in 2008 and enjoying media coverage on her successes.
After working exclusively with IMG Models for seven years, Duval is now in her 50s and operates independently, finding and placing models within large modelling networks and enjoying the freedom of choosing the agency which she feels will best suit each model on an individual basis. Models are placed in the UK initially, then overseas in Europe, and eventually, New York, which is where a career really takes off – Duval’s male modelling client of ten years, Oli Lacey, an exemplar of this successful trajectory. For each model, Duval is always open to their wants, needs and desires; working around education and encouraging them to pursue their personal passions such as cooking, writing or acting, which can often be integrated into a successful multifaceted career.
This is a piece's extract. Find out the full version in the Spring Summer 2021 Issue 6.
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