“I love a chal­lenge”

Model turned agent Jules Fal­lon didn’t fin­ish school but has learned ev­ery­thing on the job

The Irish Times Magazine - - BEAUTY -

Con­fi­dence and knowl­edge are the keys to suc­cess, ac­cord­ing to Jules Fal­lon. Cer­tainly they have served the founder of 1st Op­tion, a model agency, well de­spite an in­aus­pi­cious start. Fal­lon, who is from Beau­mont in Dublin, didn’t sit her Leav­ing Cert. “I was asked to leave in 6th year be­cause the school reck­oned I had too many ab­sences,” she says.

The rea­son for her poor at­ten­dance record was that she had started mod­el­ling part time aged just 15. While her par­ents were up­set about the abrupt end to her for­mal ed­u­ca­tion, she was pretty in­sou­ciant.

“I was very in­de­pen­dently minded,” she ex­plains. So, even though her par­ents banned her from mod­el­ling in the hope that she’d en­rol in an­other school, she had other plans. “I had al­ways been very good at art so I got a job as a graphic de­signer in­stead.”

She con­tin­ued mod­el­ling too but, by the age of 21, was ready to move on. “It be­came in­creas­ingly ob­vi­ous to my agent, Ed­die Shanahan, that I wanted to be on the other side of the cam­era, so he gave me a job as a model booker.”

She stayed four years and says she learned ev­ery­thing she knows about busi­ness from him. Her first en­ter­prise was a “per­sonal groom­ing” school that put a strong em­pha­sis on health and nu­tri­tion. This be­ing more than two decades ago, it’s fair to say she was ahead of her time. Her cour­ses in­cluded prac­tices such as the Alexan­der Tech­nique, de­signed to help re­duce stress. It’s all about giv­ing peo­ple con­fi­dence and that is some­thing that is not bound up in phys­i­cal per­fec­tion, she points out. “I’m a very con­fi­dent in­di­vid­ual. I’m also a big curvy woman. But I have a lot more con­fi­dence now than I did when I was a skinny model. I prob­a­bly have more self con­fi­dence than most su­per­mod­els.”

For her, con­fi­dence comes from that com­pelling mix­ture of knowl­edge and pas­sion. When some­one has both, they are un­beat­able, she says.

Never afraid of change, even though her first busi­ness was do­ing well she closed it down to work as a stylist in­stead, with clients such as US coun­try singer Garth Brooks, be­fore chang­ing tack again and open­ing up 1st Op­tion, 21 years ago.

With the help of IR£ 5,000 from her mother, she rented of­fices on Dame Street and hired her first mem­ber of staff. What was rad­i­cal about the agen- cy was that she didn’t just book mod­els but acted as an agent for pho­tog­ra­phers, hair stylists, make- up artists and fash­ion stylists too. On the model front her USP was to find unique Ir­ish tal­ent and send it abroad. And over the years she has launched a num­ber of suc­cess- ful Ir­ish mod­els, in­clud­ing Sor­cha Tun­ney, who went on to work for Amnesty In­ter­na­tional.

Fal­lon also pro­vides tal­ent agency ser­vices for TV celebri­ties such as Amanda Byram and Denise Van Outen.

When the down­turn came she piv­oted in a num­ber of new di­rec­tions, be­com­ing a reg­u­lar on TV and styling her­self the “shop­ping cen­tre queen”. Work­ing with the likes of Blan­chard­stown, Lif­fey Val­ley and Jervis Street shop­ping cen­tres, she branched out into per­sonal shop­ping ser­vices, styling mas­ter- classes and fash­ion events. It worked. Her or­der book on the shop­ping cen­tre front fills up months in ad­vance.

While many busi­ness own­ers found the re­ces­sion chal­leng­ing, she rel­ished it. “Prior to it so many of us were sit­ting back and let­ting the busi­ness come to us. Re­ces­sion forced us to get back out there and rein­vent our­selves, and more than any­thing I love a chal­lenge. I also love see­ing re­sults. It’s all about re­sults for me, whether it’s a photo shoot or money in the tills in a store.”

Lov­ing what she does helped. “My ca­reer ad­vice to women is al­ways to find the one thing in the world you love more than any­thing and that you know most about, and pur­sue that,” she says.

Don’t be afraid of fail­ure ei­ther, she con­tin­ues. “I don’t see mis­takes, I hon­estly only ever see a learn­ing curve. My glass is al­ways half full. Of course it helps that I’m not sav­ings lives here but I re­ally feel that if you make a mis­take you should learn from it and move on.”

Hav­ing three kids sorts her work/ life bal­ance for her. “I of­ten won­der if I’d have been as good a Mum if I was a full time Mum and I don’t think I would be – and that’s okay. You do what works. In my case it meant bring­ing ba­bies with me to board­room ta­bles and to TV shoots.”

Mak­ing things work comes eas­ily to Fal­lon. What doesn’t come eas­ily is ac­cept­ing the word “no” in busi­ness. “It’s the one thing I can­not han­dle. It sounds like a for­eign lan­guage to me. I just don’t get it. I’m think­ing, ‘ What do you mean no?’ And, be­cause I love a chal­lenge, that’s it – I’ll keep go­ing un­til I’ve turned it into a yes.”

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