On a brisk Saturday morning in January, an unrelenting creative force took over the stone-walled basement of Claddagh Coffee Cafe in St. Paul.
Nine models huddled around the large, dining room-esque table, preparing for an upcoming photoshoot.
Some were doing their makeup. Others were making last-minute wardrobe changes in the small bathroom tucked away underneath the stairs. One quickly wolfed down a veggie breakfast panini, complete with two eggs, sautéed veggies, pesto and Gouda.
As the pre-shoot chaos unfolded, University of Minnesota senior Bri Flasch stood at the center of it all. She hovered over everyone like a new-age fairy godmother, clad in blue jeans, a rainbow puffer jacket and checkered-print boots, long platinum-and-blue extensions hanging down her back.
With her camera in hand, Flasch ushered everyone up the stairs and out the door. It was time to shoot.
A full-time student majoring in business and marketing education, and part-time photographer, musician, influencer and fashion designer, Flasch manages to make it all work.
“I just don’t know how people have time to turn their brain off. Maybe I just don’t want to,” she said.
Discovering her style
Before Flasch became the creative jack-of-all-trades she is today, she was just another amateur photographer, or “iPhone-ographer,” as she puts it.
It wasn’t until her junior year of high school that she made the leap towards professional photography, buying a used DSLR T3i Rebel Canon camera in order to capture her life “more cinematically.”
When she arrived at the University of Minnesota in 2016, she began to bridge the gap from amateur to professional photography.
Flasch says she didn’t know where to start but soon found herself shooting at concerts for local bands Early Eyes and Juniper Douglas. In addition to concert photos, Flasch says during this period she honed her skills at taking “artsy friend photos,” something she would later go on to perfect.
It wasn’t long before Flasch began getting more involved in the local photography scene, hosting creative networking events with the University’s photography club.
“I didn’t feel powerful enough to do something by myself. Like, no one is going to show up if just I hosted an event,” she said.
At this point, Flasch had yet to expand beyond local photography. It wasn’t until she caught the eye of California-based production and marketing company, The H Collective, that she began taking the steps toward becoming the photographer, musician, designer and influencer she is today. Impressed by her ability to get creatives together, they invited Flasch to an influencer summit in Los Angeles in the fall of 2017.
It was at the summit that Flasch began meeting other influencers and really started thinking about personal branding, and more importantly, who she wanted to be.
“I was like, who am I? Like actually, branding aside … After that I was really inspired to hone in on who I actually was,” she said.
Skip ahead to 2018. Flasch went to Asia for six months, backpacking around the continent for weeks before starting her studies at East China Normal University in Shanghai, China. When she arrived in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam in January, she wasn’t sure who she wanted to be.
“I was like, I can either be an influencer, travel blogger or something while I’m abroad. Or, I can get rid of everything I own and just live in the moment and try to exist,” Flasch said.
She chose the latter. Before she left for Asia, Flasch got rid of everything she owned — except for a pair of pants, a skirt and a couple shirts — leaving her winter jackets with her dad.
During her time in Asia, Flasch says she found inspiration around her, and in turn, a new eye for photography.
Inspired by Chinese and Japanese fashion and photography, Flasch’s creative style went in a new direction upon her return to the states.
“I was like alright. My 20th birthday is coming up. Why shouldn’t I just be who I want to be? I started dying my hair and getting rid of all my clothes I didn’t resonate with, and I was really starting to feel like myself again,” she said.
Throughout her process of self-rediscovery, Flasch began to gain back the confidence and originality that, according to her brother, Branden Flasch, had always been her style.
“She’s kind of always been a trendsetter of sorts, kind of blazing her own path whether others encourage it, support it, or even like it. She did it anyway,” he said.
According to friend and musical collaborator Kiddest Sinke, Flasch’s confidence is infectious, causing those around her to explore different sides of themselves.
“She’s really good at capturing people and their natural emotions and making them feel really confident in different and crazy outfits … helping people step out of that comfort zone,” Sinke said.
Expanding her portfolio
Her rediscovered confidence paved the way for Flasch to begin exploring other creative outlets.
In August of 2019, Flasch and Sinke, who she met in third grade through an online forum for the game “Build-A-Bearville,” created the musical duo cybergirlfriend.
While the duo only has three songs in their repertoire: “text me back,” “airplane mode” and “VSCO Girl,” they hope to drop their debut album this spring.
According to producer and cybergirlfriend “shadow member” Zack Hagstrom-Skalnek, people should be ready for cybergirlfriend to start gaining some traction.
“I’m not an industry predictor or anything, but I do think [Flasch’s] music could go somewhere. She’s talented, got good songwriting sense, and a good voice,” he said.
Earlier this month, Flasch released her very first clothing line, “Flasch Fashion,” inspired by colorful and fun patterns, vintage fashion, Chinese and Korean streetwear and kids' clothing.
The clothing brand, which Flasch only started working on in October 2019, includes sweaters, beanies and a wide range of accessories.
According to one of the models for the collection, Jenna Zifchock, the fashion line is the embodiment of Flasch’s never quit, always creating mindset.
“It’s so cool to watch her go after whatever she needs or whatever she wants. She’s never sitting there questioning anything. She’s always like ‘I’m gonna do it, and it’s gonna happen.’ It’s incredible to watch,” Zifchock said.
Flasch Fashion is “a clothing line made for everyone. All genders. All styles. All comfort zones,” according to her website.
This mission statement reflects Flasch’s goal in all she does: She wants to inspire others to be the best version of themselves they can be.
“I think everyone is original and interesting and super deep and has something bubbling underneath that’s absolutely crazy and so them. But, I don’t think everyone has a chance to unlock that, and that’s something I want to unlock in others,” she said.
That “can do” energy that Flasch brings to everything is truly contagious. As she posed models against the blue wall outside Bad Weather Brewing Company in St. Paul, she exclaimed, “OK! OK! I see you!” with every snap of the camera, causing everyone to genuinely smile for their photographer-in-chief.
Self taught in almost everything she does, Flasch hasn’t let her lack of conventional training stand in her way.
As one of the shoot’s models grabbed a camera and began snapping away, she said, “I took one photography class; now look at me!”
With a toothy grin from behind the camera, Flasch responded, “I took none; look at me now.”