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Inside Flavor World: A breath of fresh air in Twin Cities fashion, music and culture

Drew Kinkade poses to get his portrait taken in The Flavor Shop in Minneapolis on September 16, 2023.
Drew Kinkade poses to get his portrait taken in The Flavor Shop in Minneapolis on September 16, 2023.Nikhil Kumaran | MPR

by Nikhil Kumaran

November 21, 2023

Drew Kinkade’s first attempt at screen printing the words “Flavor” on a T-shirt was actually a huge success. He had bought a used screen printer on eBay, watched some YouTube tutorials, and set it all up in his parents’ dining room to begin this project in 2017.

The next 10 attempts? Utter failure. In hindsight, the first one was a lot of luck. According to Kinkade, all the variables somehow lined up and the exposure was just perfect. He felt disappointed when he couldn’t replicate the first try, as he didn’t know why he couldn’t get it right again, but he wasn’t ready to give up.

“But I do think that because I had that first success, I knew it was possible. I'd done it before with this setup and with this equipment. I know it's possible,” says Kinkade, from his office in south Minneapolis near Powderhorn Park. This space is now headquarters for Flavor World, a bright, fun, colorful and playful extension of the 25-year-old’s creativity. “That really helped me stay persistent and try to make it work again – even with all those failures – I knew I had everything I needed to do it because I did it once before.”

Founded in March 2018, Flavor World’s expanding creative brand has connected with influential local pillars of fashion, music, art, and, most recently, craft beer. When asked, the oft-reserved Kinkade couldn’t really pinpoint where the name “Flavor World” came from, but he did know that once he saw the words on a T-shirt, something about it felt right.

Now an emergent player in the Twin Cities art, fashion and music scenes, Flavor World had a very humble start – as it was a name only murmured by Midwestern college students, skaters, and aspiring artists. This past August marked the first Flavor Fest, a collaboration between Flavor World, Indeed Brewing Company, and Twin Town Guitars. The weekend event at Indeed’s northeast Minneapolis taproom brought people together through local music, art, and vendors. People of all ages enjoyed the event, from young 20-somethings moshing in the crowd to grandparents dancing with their grandchildren.

Ryan Bandy, chief business officer at Indeed, has collaborated with Kinkade and Flavor World several times. They’ve put on events like Flavor Fest, set up clothes in their storefront, and even partnered with the brewery in promoting the Flavorwave IPA.

“When we first met, Drew had all of these sketches that he brought up – Flavorwave and Flavor World combined, sketches of a T-shirt, or he had sketches of crazy things he had thought of, and wanted to show,” says Bandy. “You could tell he was an inspiring and inspired person.”

According to Bandy, the Flavorwave IPA existed before he even knew what Flavor World was. Kinkade had gotten wind of the beer’s existence and was immediately driven to connect with Indeed Brewing. Not out of spite, but a creative burst of energy and need for collaboration.

“He was like, ‘What the hell?’ There's a beer that's already exists and has the same aesthetic as Flavor World in some way,” says Bandy.

With uncanny similarities between the two: a red-and-blue color scheme and an urban streetwear vibe, the decision to work together was a simple one for both parties.

“This is someone that just has the energy to create and make stuff,” says Bandy. “He asks questions and wants to listen to what you have to say. To me, those are the most important things I look for in collaborators.”

This past October, Flavor World worked on a Halloween-themed fashion show hosted at Green Room in Minneapolis and will be hosting a Friendsgiving with local artist Aiden Intro on Wednesday, November 22 at the same venue. The event will consist of live music, jam sessions, and a birthday party at Green Room featuring Ber, Landon Conrath, Caleb Dee, The Dalmatian Club, Chutes, she’s green and more.

Another upcoming event is the Flavor World Experience – a many-medium art event featuring live painting; music by Ozone Creations, Purple Funk Metropolis, Creeping Charlie, and In Lieu; and a photo booth – at the Fine Line on January 6.

The beginnings of the Flavor World idea go back much further than when the brand was established. Kinkade recalls hanging with his childhood friends and seeking a logo to represent them and their antics while skateboarding around the Minneapolis suburb of Minnetonka. They made plain white shirts featuring the word “flavor” – the “O” being a donut — by ironing the designs on using transfer paper. They sold the shirts to their friends and wore them on Fridays installing “Flavor Fridays” as tradition at Wayzata High School. However, as time went on, Kinkade got caught up with growing up, and Flavor World took a backseat.

In 2017, Kinkade began his freshman year at the University of Minnesota. Set on a path for engineering, he had a knack for math, but slowly lost interest. In lectures he often passed the time by drawing silly doodles of gangly aliens and cartoonish monsters in his notebook during class just to distract himself.  After showing his friend Fletcher Craft his drawings, they said that he should put them on a shirt. Not even thinking about Flavor World, he once again began making designs for T-shirts. However, knowing Kinkade’s creative side, Craft made another suggestion – one that would change his life.

“You know, that doesn’t really sound like you, like just ordering them online,” Craft told him. Kinkade originally planned on using a third-party website to design the shirts, but those words resonated with him, serving as the pivotal moment in the rebirth of Flavor World.

Enter the screen printing machine, which after finally nailing down his method, Kinkade began using to start a small clothing business. He began selling shirts around Minneapolis and Eau Claire, Wisconsin, where his close friend Jack Matesuski went to college. 

“I remember very vividly when he told me that he was going to drop out of school and do this, “says Matesuski. “That was definitely a very like real moment where I was like, ‘Wow, he's really trying to make this into something.

As Flavor World grew, Kinkade’s trademark “F” sticker started appearing on strangers’ laptops, beanies, and water bottles. While the support of his close friends and their circles was good for getting his product in the public’s eye, Kinkade was excited that his goal of branching out and reaching those who didn’t even know his name was being met. Meanwhile, Kinkade had less time to balance growing his business and being a student. So, during his fourth semester, he found himself having to make an important decision.

“I was doing both my college classes and Flavor World at the same time. I would have classes all day during the week, and then on the weekends, I'd print shirts. I just didn't really have any social life. It was way too busy and not in a good way. I realized that I only had time for one. It was just so clear to me; I don't think I had any doubts that it was Flavor World.”

Now, after screen printing/creating countless shirts, recording local bands for a YouTube channel with more than 95,000 followers, sewing rugs and other textiles, and painting murals around the Twin Cities – one at Parkway Pizza in St. Louis Park and the others in the bathrooms of The Green Room music venue in Uptown, Minneapolis — Kinkade has opened a studio space in south Minneapolis alongside business partner Beck Schacht. Due to the brand’s increasing popularity, Kinkade is currently focused on expanding Flavor World into a team beyond his close friends.

“It's my baby and I still want to shape my vision for it, but now that it's been about five years, I feel like it's pretty established, and I'm comfortable with that,” says Kinkade. “So, it's very exciting to start to take on people and see how much more we can get done. And I feel like I have a lot to learn, but I'm very excited by learning these sorts of things and figuring it out as we go.”

Kinkade points to a framed dollar bill hung up on his studio’s wall, which he says served as the spark for his entrepreneurial spirit. 

“There's no point in keeping the first dollar if you don't think it's going to mean something,” he says. “It does show kind of how confident I was right away. At the time, I was like, ‘We have to keep the first dollar like someday this is going to be priceless.’”

man smiles as he points to a framed dollar bill
Drew Kinkade poses to get his portrait taken in The Flavor Shop in Minneapolis on September 16, 2023.
Nikhil Kumaran | MPR

The dollar came from Kinkade’s aunt Karen, who helped Kinkade purchase that screen printing press in 2017. Kinkade and his aunt made the deal that if they exchanged a shirt for a $1 bill, he could document his first dollar. Kinkade’s aunt signed and dated the dollar, but not to Flavor World, as she thought the name wouldn’t stick around.

“It's actually funny because on the first dollar, she signed it, dated it and then she wrote ‘Drew's New Company,’ because she didn't want to write Flavor World. She was doubtful that we were going to get the trademark. She said, ‘You're going to have problems with Flavor Flav. He's probably already got a trademark.’” 

Though he hasn’t dealt with the Public Enemy and reality TV star to date, getting the Flavor World trademark was no easy task.

“It was a nightmare,” says Kinkade. “My conspiracy theory is that it’s similar to how the government goes about [getting] people doing their own taxes. It’s super complicated so people don’t do it.”

Even walking through the process again gives him the chills. Kinkade submitted a lengthy and costly application, knowing that making one mistake, typo, etc., could mean it’s rejected with no refund or explanation.

 “It’s complicated and ruthless,” says Kinkade. “Which is a bad mix.” At the time he was still a student at the University of Minnesota, so he used campus resources which eventually helped him land his trademark on Flavor World.


a framed trademark for "FLAVOR WORLD" sits on the floor
A framed trademark for "FLAVOR WORLD" sits on the floor in The Flavor Shop in Minneapolis on September 16, 2023.
Nikhil Kumaran | MPR

In April 2021, Flavor World Records was formed, the brand’s music-focused subsidiary. The brand was now sponsoring/promoting local shows, covering live events, and both recording and producing in-studio performances which were posted to YouTube with artists including Creeping Charlie, killusonline, DNM, Dad Bod, and Carnage the Executioner.

Kinkade had always wanted to branch out into music, as he saw it as simply another medium of art. After meeting audio engineer Brett Havens in 2021, Kinkade and Havens plunged themselves into the Twin Cities music scene. “Once I met him, we just did a lot of talking and he wanted to put his skills to use,” he says.

Though fun to make, Kinkade revealed that the most difficult part about the studio sessions was the post-production of the videos “We started off on a really strong note,” says Kinkade. “The videos did a lot for the community, but for the amount of time it took – and doing this without any payment— we had to pause until we could find a way to make it more successful and productive for everyone involved.”

Though not currently recording in-studio sessions, Kinkade says that there is a chance that they may return under the Flavor World name. “There’s no set plans yet,” says Kinkade. “We just need a larger team and maybe some sort of sponsorship so we can actually make a little money for each one somehow.”

While leaning away from live recording, Flavor World has instead invested more of its time in hosting and sponsoring events in the Twin Cities. From putting on creative workshops, fashion shows or live music shows, the goal has always been to support the local community.

Solomon Falls, a local musician and friend of Kinkade, has been able to work more with Flavor World and become more of an active member over time. They say that Kinkade’s journey has been inspiring to watch.   

“To really stick to something the way Drew has for the past six or seven years and for it to pay off in that regard for him, it’s just really wonderful,” says Falls. “He’s created such a welcoming and inclusive space for creatives across the Twin Cities.”

When asked why he set up “The Flavorshop” in Minneapolis, Kinkade refers to the city as a “Goldilocks city.” It’s not too big, and it’s not too small.

“In LA or New York, it's so hard to get your startup because there's a million other people trying to get their start,” he says. “Which is great for some people, but not me. And it's not so small that there's nothing going on or it's quiet. It's just somewhere in the middle where there's a lot going on here, but at the same time, I feel like [Minneapolis] hasn't really broken through yet.

When walking into Kinkade’s studio space, it’s obvious that it reflects his creative, colorful, and abstract style. From multiple mirrors scattered around the walls to his artwork that add bursts of color to the room, it was cool to see how everything came together. This most-recent visit was the third time I’d been in his storefront. Seeing the space more finished, as opposed to when he was still painting the walls, really symbolized just how much Flavorworld has blossomed into its own unique brand.

Everyone has influences. However, Kinkade says he is influenced by being authentically himself and one-upping his own work with each creation. “I didn’t want to be inspired by external ideas,” says Kinkade. “I wanted to be my original self.”

He admits to admiring the prolific abstract painter Basquiat, but is more inspired by the space Minneapolis has given him to grow, as well as his new community. “It’s super exciting for me,” he says. “Learning new things and helping other people is what drives me. When I learn a new technique for painting, screen printing, etc., it opens so many doors not just for me, but for others as well.”  

Kinkade says it would be a dream come true to collaborate with the City of Minneapolis on a public park design. “What if we just bought a whole city block – however many millions that costs – and we make a beautiful grass-filled awesome playground with a skate park,” he says. “It’s just a dream, but I would love to do something.”  

Kinkade is constantly coming up with new ideas and ways to further develop Flavor World. He’s always writing something in his journal “just to keep up with his thoughts,” he says. Other collaborations on his mind include a possible partnership with Dum Dum lollipops. He also teased an interest in getting involved with video games. “That’d be a lot of fun,” he says.

Though Kinkade manned Flavor World’s ship mostly on his own for many years, he had the support of friends, family, and multiple communities in the Twin Cities which he says contributed the most to his success.

“I feel like I get more credit than I deserve,” he says. “I've definitely poured my heart and soul into it and taken a lot of risks. I'm not trying to reduce my involvement in it in any way, but I just feel like oftentimes, the value of what my friends have contributed is overlooked. Without friends, family, and people supporting me and giving me chances, it never would have happened. The value of that help is priceless.”

Friendsgiving hosted by Flavor World and Aiden Intro. Music and open jams from Aiden Intro, Chutes, she’s green, The Dalmatian Club, Ber, Caleb Dee, Landon Conrath and more. Doors Open 6:00 p.m., Show Time 7:00 p.m., Wednesday November 22, at Green Room. FREE. RSVP + More info.

Flavor World Experience, featuring live sewing, painting, collaging, photography, and more. With Ozone Creations, Purple Funk Metropolis, Creeping Charlie, and In Lieu. 8:30 p.m., Saturday, January 6, at Fine Line. Tickets + More info

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Clean Water Land & Legacy Amendment
This activity is made possible in part by the Minnesota Legacy Amendment’s Arts & Cultural Heritage Fund.