Saavedra was raised in Mexico City and moved to Ixtapa, in the state of Guerrero, to build his architecture firm and surf the iconic Loma Bonita wave. While establishing his business, friends introduced him to the Canadian-born Medina. As she tells us, “I had been learning how to surf and he introduced me to the water. The rest is history. I was at crossroads in my life and Andrés said, ‘you should move to Mexico.’ So I moved to Ixtapa in 2010.”
The pair turned out to be natural business partners, collaborating on Saavedra’s development projects and founding LOOT, a surf lifestyle brand that builds community in Zihuatanejo and Mexico City through cultural events, contemporary retail spaces, cafes, art galleries, and more. The next evolution of their work is MUSA—the Modern Utopian Society of Adventurers—a community and hotel set on a wild peninsula that Saavedra had dreamt of buying for years. “He actually brought me there on our second date,” Medina says. In this conversation, they tell us the story from the very beginning.
Andrés Saavedra: I was born on my grandparents’ ranch on a hillside of Mexico City. Now it’s close to the financial district, but 40 years ago this was a mountain. We lived in a tiny eight-by-eight-meter house with a farm. My mom is a Montessori teacher, so we didn’t have a TV, and my dad is an architect. I went to school in Mexico City, so I saw the development of everything. I used to go to the Centro Histórico back in the day, and there weren’t any of these hip cultural spaces that there are now. It was a different city, but I loved it. I was fortunate to see the change.
Tara Medina: I grew up in Canada, but Mexico has always been close to my family’s hearts. My father is Australian and my mom is American, so they’re sun babies. They love to ski but they also love the warmth, so Mexico was such an easy option. We traveled to Mexico all my life, and they ended up buying a property in Ixtapa in 2002. This became the meeting place for our family.
TM: When I met Andrés, he was doing a beautiful, highly sustainable project that was different from anything else being developed in the area. I came down and helped him with the real estate and the property management and that was our first adventure together in terms of design and development.
TM: In the mid-to-late 2000s, a lot of young people left Zihuatanejo and it was lacking cool food, music, and cultural events. We launched LOOT as an experimental platform for us to bring together all the things that we wanted in life but didn’t exist here. We were having so much fun—it was parties, festivals, art, and music—and it attracted the community that we were yearning for. It was a success in that regard, but we were not art curators or food-and-beverage operators, so our experimentation was a bit innocent and naïve. But we were building something.
AS: We define LOOT as people that love life and adventures—fun, good, curious people. It's constantly changing: It’s almost like bringing all the explorers together to see what’s new and what’s happening. They’re also curious about doing good. It goes beyond having fun or going on vacation.
AS: We were hungry to do it. We had an interesting relationship with the city because we were sourcing and creating art, furniture, and even motorcycles in Mexico City so we were going all the time, but we didn’t have a space or a sense of belonging, which made things difficult.
TM: Opening a studio space was also an important step in Andrés’ evolution as a designer. There was a beautiful crescendo of all he was developing and the people we were meeting in the industrial design and art worlds, which became much closer for us with LOOT.
TM: Andrés started looking and found this beautiful space.
AS: It was not really beautiful, actually.
TM [laughs]: No, it was not. It was a massive garage in Roma. And Roma is so beautiful and intricate with old buildings—all the little shops and restaurants are in these amazing spaces—and Andrés finds this 8,000-square-foot garage. Our space in Zihuatanejo is about the same size, so we liked that it mirrored what we had in Zihuatanejo.
AS: It was a happy find, but we weren’t prepared at all. It was almost like it was given to us.
TM: And then we thought, okay, if we’re going to have the office, we should probably look for an apartment. We went to look at a place right around the corner and there happened to be a real estate agent in the elevator with us. She said “I have another one. It’s better.” So, she took us to the apartment and it was perfect. The universe has a way of making these things happen.
AS: I love the chaos and the vibrancy. Mexico City is the most chaotic city that you can imagine, and still, everything works. It’s really Mexican. There’s the noise, the smells, the diversity. It’s in juxtaposition with what we have at MUSA, where everything is open. It’s also incredible to go to different studios and chefs’ kitchens. This is really nourishing for what we do.
TM: I think what's so beautiful about Mexico City for us is that it’s this incredible connector. The world is coming to Mexico City now and celebrating all that is Mexican. So, it’s a landing spot for people to come and experience what we’re doing here.
AS: Perla Valtierra is a good friend of ours, and she has a beautiful building in Colonia Juárez. She makes ceramics with beautiful texture—the colors are just insane. It’s such traditional work but with a modern twist. She made all the plates, mugs, and vases that we have at Alba, our restaurant at MUSA.
TM: We had known about the land forever because Andrés did a project for the original owner in 2003. He brought me there on our second date and told me that this was his dream property. So, we always had it in the back of our minds that we would end up here in one way or another.
But at the time, we had been working on a project in a cool little surf community to the north for three years, but it wasn’t flowing. But sometimes the universe decides for you. One day after we were surfing, we went to a party where the host was the owner of the land. And he kind of cornered Andrés and said, “I know nobody’s crazy enough to buy that land, but can you help me out?” So, we went to check it out the next day and we thought, “What were we even doing for the last three years?” We made an offer and ended up closing in seven days. Life moves in mysterious ways.