Local Designer Stands up to Corporate Giant

Powerful corporations often think they can take advantage of

small business owners with no repercussions – Melissa Lay proves otherwise.

It takes a lot of courage for a small business owner to stand up to a corporate giant in any business setting. Melissa Lay, an Oregon designer, did just that when she claimed Target copied one of the graphic designs she prints on t-shirts. Confronting large businesses can be intimidating, with their seemingly unlimited personnel, resources and funds, but Melissa’s story teaches us that no artist is too small to stand up for his or her work product.

Melissa Lay is the designer behind SandiLake Clothing, a boutique business in Portland, Oregon. She also promotes and expands her business using the platform Etsy, a website on which artists and other creators can display and sell their products to others around the world. This is likely the platform from which Target designers discovered Melissa’s design that was later used by the company.

The trouble began when a friend of Melissa’s sent her a picture of a shirt in a Target store that bore a nearly identical design to one of Melissa’s most popular shirts. Melissa was disheartened and outraged. On her company’s blog she stated, “Naturally, I was shocked, confused, and frustrated when I discovered one of SandiLake’s first five original designs available for sale in Target without my prior knowledge…. They’re using a stolen design, but they have the backing of large company dollars and the little guys like us don’t stand a chance. It’s frustrating and not ok.”

Despite these words, and being shrugged off by Target who told her to fill out and mail in a complaint card when she called to address the situation, Melissa did not back down. She posted a picture of herself to social media (pictured above) that portrays the striking similarities between her design and Target’s appropriated design. The picture quickly went viral, and now that Target was receiving negative publicity for its actions it quickly addressed the situation, removed the design from its clothing line, and apologized to Melissa.

Small, local designers who truly put themselves into everything they produce should not be able to be taken advantage of by corporate giants. Melissa’s story demonstrates that in this day and age, it is possible to ensure your voice is heard in such situations. If you are an artist and feel someone has infringed upon your personal work product, or just wish to learn more about appropriations issues within the arts world, do not hesitate to browse the VLAA website or contact the organization for a consultation.


Image Credit:

by Kaitlyn WestWest_Kaitlyn