Christopher Lambe is fed up. Like many other Torontonians, Lambe has grown increasingly upset at the city’s ongoing construction, public transit, and growing cost of living crisis. To combat that, and as a form of self-therapy, Lambe sells custom, parody t-shirts on Etsy that provide commentary on the state of living in Toronto. At first, he reworked the Metrolinx name into Metrostinx, and most recently, has gone as far as taking a jab at Loblaws, giving them the moniker Roblaw$.
“Last year I was just getting more and more frustrated trying to get to work whether it was public transit, a taxi or even biking – everything was under construction, traffic was terrible, service was terrible, it was just a miserable experience,” Lambe says. “I decided I wanted to wear my frustration on my sleeve, I searched around and there was nothing out there criticizing Metrolinx so Metrostinx tees was born.”
Lambe sells T-shirts on Etsy, a customizable platform that encourages unique sellers of self-made designs, under the Instant Distractions name where other shirts such as “No Shame” parodying the No Name brand and “Robbers” parodying Rogers can also be found.
He sold the shirts for a few months, growing in popularity across commentary-based social media platforms like X, and selling well through his Etsy. Metrolinx however found out about the operation and quickly shut it down.
“When the companies finally notice the satirical designs it seems like they like to do what they can to shut it down under the guise of Trademark violation,” Lambe says. “Unfortunately, our country has a poor history of protecting artists’ use of fair use law to criticize companies that are taking advantage of us, so these companies feel empowered to swing their weight around whether they are in the right or not.”
The same trademark infringement battle arose with Loblaws. Lambe’s latest graphic t-shirt alters the Loblaws ellipse’s L logo with a firearm and basket, along with changing the name to Roblaw$. When asked why he decided to take on Loblaws next, Lambe said, “Why Not Loblaws?”
He followed up on his statement saying the removal of the 50% off sticker placed near-expiring food (which has since returned) was the final straw. Lambe knows people who are elderly or low-income who benefited tremendously from the discounted food found in the early morning or late evening.
Through the ongoing battle with both Metrolinx and Loblaws, Lambe has felt unrivaled support from Torontonians.
“At the end of the day these issues are just striking a chord that rings true with the zeitgeist,” Lambe says. “People are struggling, people are angry, people are hungry for something to change, and our governments aren’t doing much to help with these situations or relieve the tension between the people and the institutions/corporations responsible for letting it get this bad.”
While Lambe continues to design new shirts and deal with legal repercussions, he has his sights set on rounding out what he deems his “oligopoly line.” Along with creating a custom suit inspired by Doug Ford, Lambe says, “Hell’s ‘Bell’, I’m looking at you!”