Dynamic Duos: TBWA\Fabric’s perfect partnership

In this week's Dynamic Duos, Keenan Motto and Gemma Rees, co-founders of Fabric, share their experiences having worked together in a previous life within TBWA\Sydney, before re-joining forces to create an agency backed by the TBWA Collective, based on their shared work ethic.

In Dynamic Duos, Mumbrella each week asks two colleagues with a professional and personal affiliation to share with readers the importance of workplace relationships in an increasingly hybridised world of work.

Keenan Motto:

Gemma and I met ten years ago when I first entered the world of advertising. Having worked in smaller more-bespoke brand design and art direction-based agencies, I was slightly shitting myself at the change of scale. Working at the time on one of Australia’s most prestigious retail accounts, I was thrown in the proverbial deep end without a life raft. Enter Gemma. From our first interaction it was like (professional) love at first sight. We worked at the same speed, had the same work ethic and, most importantly, a similar depraved sense of humour – three key ingredients for a perfect partnership. Over time our professional and personal friendship blossomed. Along with our close-knit team, we had built an unbreakable bond that we knew would last a lifetime. It was then I decided to completely shit on that by leaving! But for good reason. That role had stagnated my creativity, and I needed to spread my wings elsewhere. We knew that we would come together again somehow. Little did I know it would lead to Fabric.

Over the course of a few years and many negronis we started Fabric. Without Gemma, I would never have taken the plunge to run our own business. Her unwavering pursuit of excellence, tenacious business acumen, no bullshit attitude, and unwavering loyalty make her a force to be reckoned with. Oh, and she’s an intuitive White Witch who knows everything is going to happen before it does.

Another superpower of Gemma’s is her adaptability. On the constant roller coaster of agency life, Gem can change course like the wind and inspire the team around her to rise to any occasion. A dynamic blend of wit, humour, reliability, intelligence and kindness make her so loved and respected by anyone who comes in contact with her.

It’s not all sunshine – we can clash at times but in the best ways. Usually, Gem is talking WAY too much and I need to tell her to pipe down or leave me alone, or she is just in one of her Monday Moods. But even being able to have an open and honest conversation with her (or just to tell her to shut up!) is an indication of how terrific she is. She takes it on the chin, gives me a smile and gets on with it. No grudges, open communication, and a joint purpose of making things fucking exceptional.

Gemma Rees:

Keenan and I worked together over a decade ago at TBWA. Back then, I’d only been in Australia for a couple of years and he, along with the rest of the extraordinary team we worked with, quickly became my family away from home. We worked hard, played hard and laughed hard every day. Which is true of how we turn up with our team at Fabric today.

We initially bonded over our shared work ethic and love for serial killers and our dark, twisted sense of humour. I believe the true power of our duo is based on us working to a similar frequency, based on instinct and intuition. We can literally read each other’s minds across the room.

Keenan is extremely talented, has impeccable taste and can turn ugly into beautiful. He’s so much more than ‘a creative’, I’ve never met someone who can wear so many hats. From creative to business to strategy to production, he gives us all a run for our money. It’s also impressive how he puts up with the amount of talking I do, embraces my weird as well as my accent. He’s loyal and fiercely protects his people and the work, nurtures an d cares for client and supplier relationships and the importance of our reputation. Beyond our work relationship, I’m most grateful for the unwavering support I had from Keenan as I entered motherhood. Setting up and running a business while growing a wee human was no mean feat. Keenan stood by my side and kept Fabric growing all while supporting his own family.

As partners, we have a great balance of lifting each other up, having each other’s back and encouraging each other to push harder. We’re both resilient people and straight talkers and not afraid to call each other’s bullshit (when needed). It’s handy that my husband Dave is a creative – I’m already well-versed in the delicate handling of the creative mind and how to balance telling them they’re wonderful every couple of days at the same time as reining in and embracing their peculiar demands. In Keenan’s case – refusing to eat with wooden cutlery, pretending he’s vegetarian , and his irrational fear of balloons.

Most of all what I love about our partnership is how much fun we have. I honestly love turning up to work every day and knowing I’ll belly laugh at least three times a day.

Keenan on Gemma:

Most memorable moment with Gemma: Oh wow, there are too many to mention! Perhaps, Gemma gyrating on a chair at karaoke while our CEO was singing ‘Pump up the Jam’? Or seeing her return to work from maternity leave with even more superpowers than before.

Best word to describe her: Unstoppable.

Most annoying habit or endearing behaviour she has: Talking. Never not talking.

Gemma on Keenan: 

Most memorable moment with Keenan: Shooting numerous campaigns around Australia that have involved staying in weird Airbnbs and drinking far too much wine the night before a 4am call time.

Best word to describe him: One-of-a-kind.

Most annoying habit or endearing behaviour he has:

His most annoying habit is telling me to stop talking; oh, and his hatred for meetings…

His most endearing behaviour is how much he deeply cares. He cares for the work, for our clients, our suppliers, and  most of all the people around him. So much so , never cross Keenan, he has a true mafia mentality – if he cares for you, he will protect you without compromise.


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