CHICAGO — A Chicago T-shirt company has pulled a design after a social media campaign called out the company for lifting it from a local artist without credit or compensation.
Chitown Clothing's $20 shirts and $40 crewnecks featuring "The '85 Bears," a play on the Super Bowl-winning year for the football team, were nearly identical to a design produced by Meredith Kachel, an artist and comedian living in Avondale.
On Friday, Kachel's supporters launched the "#PayMeredith" campaign, calling out Chitown Clothing and asking it to credit and reimburse her for the design.
"[T]here was a huge misunderstanding," read an email to DNAinfo Chicago from the company Monday, which is run by husband and wife Kevin and Sara Kasarski.
Kyla Gardner talks about the T-shirt controversy:
"The idea for it was originally suggested to us a few years ago from a friend, and we had never before seen the other version. We are a small company that has had designs stolen from us in the past, and we would never want to do the same thing."
Kachel, who was "pretty upset" after learning of the duplication Friday, was ecstatic to hear the shirt had been removed from Chitown's site early Monday, though she said she hadn't been contacted by anyone from the T-shirt company.
"Oh my God, they're angels," she said. "I so appreciate that."
Kachel said she sold four of her "The 85 Bears" shirts in 2011, and had no idea a similar design was circulating until a friend saw someone wearing the shirt Friday.
But the shirt her friend spotted wasn't Kachel's design — it was a slight variation sold on Chitown's website.
"It's pretty common to have the same idea as someone else, but what they did was take exactly my design," Kachel said.
Kachel's friends in the Chicago comedy community quickly picked up on the story, taking to social media to lay into Chitown Clothing on the company's Facebook page and on Twitter with the hashtag #PayMeredith.
Chitown Clothing initially disputed on Twitter that it had stolen the design.
"[N]ever seen her stuff before but I assure to all our designs are original!" the company Tweeted Friday night.
Kachel was positive hers was designed first.
"It's always been on my website," she said. "People know it's mine."
An Etsy sale shows that Kachel's Bears shirt was sold on March 8, 2011. According to blog posts, the Chitown shirt appeared five months later, in August of 2011.
The company called the shirt "brand spankin new" in a sports forum post on Aug. 13, and a blogger wrote on Aug. 11 that the shirt was "the latest design from my friends at Chitown Clothing."
Posts on the company's Facebook page also claim that Chitown Clothing deleted comments over the weekend related to the alleged theft. At least three posts documented by DNAinfo Chicago Sunday afternoon no longer appeared on the page Monday morning.
Before hearing the company had pulled the shirt, Kachel said she was proud of her design as "super cute and a really good idea," and hoped to work out a deal with Chitown.
"[The T-shirt] seems to be pretty popular," she said. "I don’t think I would mind [if Chitown keeps selling it] as long as it was credited to me, and I was paid for it."
Now that the shirt has been taken down, Kachel said she's not sure if she'll start selling "The 85 Bears" in her own shop again, or if she'll see any back revenue from the shirt from Chitown.
"Back payment would be awesome, but I know that they're probably struggling as much as I am in this economy," she said.
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