How a home decor brand gained a ‘cult-like’ following of suburban moms

Live. Laugh. Love. Let yourself resell inexpensive home decor for a massive profit.

This is the creed of “Rae Dunn women” — or rabid fans of the simplistic home decor brand best known for its white ceramic mugs and containers.

TikTok user @alyssagiulianaa shared a video of shoppers scouring the shelves of TJX corporation stores like TJ Maxx and Marshalls for home goods the moment the doors opened. It has since gone viral with 12 million views, shedding new light on this trend that actually isn’t new at all.

What’s a Rae Dunn woman?

According to TikTok user @itsargongames, a former Marshalls employee, they are people who go store to store to buy all the Rae Dunn products and upsell their winnings online.

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As we see from @alyssagiulianaa‘s video, though, these women aren’t just buying a few pieces from the collection here and there. They are snatching everything from the display as quickly as possible.

What is the Rae Dunn style?

Rae Dunn home decor has a distinct, hand-lettering style that typically slaps one word on things like mugs, dishes and ingredient containers. You’ll see small canisters that say “flour,” mugs that say “mom life” and even signs that say “live laugh love.”

Vice explained that the Rae Dunn aesthetic, which has a “cult-like” following, falls under the “Pinterest-ready elements under the cis-core-meets-wine-mom” umbrella.

Credit: Marshalls

TikTok user @beatingthebinary, a purported expert in “wine mom culture,” said the style of the font on the ceramics has a “homey, handcrafted vibe, while actually being mass-produced.”

They also noted that the ceramics are marketed toward straight white women with heterosexual language on many of the pieces.

@beatingthebinary

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Twitter user @shelbyboring, who is a graphic designer, added that Rae Dunn’s style is “sort of like a mass-produced Marcel Duchamp.”

“Often imitated, never duplicated,” she wrote.”You can talk all day about the merit of their work, but what’s more important is that they were smart enough to do it first.”

Duchamp is best-known for his bicycle wheel and urinal sculptures, which were so simplistic critics called them a “joke on modern history.” He laughed all the way to the bank.

What makes Rae Dunn decor so special?

One of the keys to Rae Dunn’s early success was her products’ accessibility. Items are available at TJX stores, which are all over the place, and typically retail for under $20. To succeed at upselling Rae Dunn decor, you don’t have to have money — you just have to be willing to line up at a store at dawn.

With upselling comes intense competition, though. The TJX corporation “rapidly” cycles through what assortments are available across seasons, so certain pieces have the potential of becoming rare collector’s items.

Credit: Etsy

The TJX website describes this as a “treasure hunt,” and the resale market sees it as such.

There are hundreds of competitive Facebook groups dedicated to buying and selling Rae Dunn products above the market price. Many have thousands of members and dozens of rules.

“This is a place for RAE DUNN ADDICTS to buy, sell and trade. You might be looking for your first piece or that final, rare item to complete your collection,” the rules of one group with more than 50,000 members state. “There are no rules on what you must sell or trade a piece for. (If you want to sell it for 10x’s the retail value or give it away for free, it’s completely up to you!)”

To get in, you typically have to prove your devotion to the Rae Dunn brand. For this one in particular, I had to say which item was my favorite and which I was looking for.

Who are these so-called Rae Dunn women who claim to be ‘addicted’ to the brand?

TikTok user @beatingthebinary said they have seen people refer to their relationship with Rae Dunn “both jokingly and seriously as … an addiction.”

Dedreanna Drost, who blogs under the name Where We Summer, recently wrote about her “addiction” and how collecting pottery is “putting women thousands of dollars in debt.”

She opened up about the moment she realized she “had a problem.”

“During the initial release of the Rae Dunn birdhouse shaped clock … EVERYONE wanted these clocks, and posted about them all day every day,” she wrote. She then painted a picture of a night during which she jumped out of bed, grabbed her son and went to a store where she bought multiple clocks and listed them for sale on Facebook immediately.

“The clocks were gone within a few minutes. I bought my son a treat for being such a good sport, and went home with a weird ‘what the hell am I doing’ feeling,” she said.

Drost said she’s seen people “making up fake sob stories to get pieces sent to them, tricking people, people fighting, crying, complaining, humiliating others [and] people using natural or personal disasters to get pieces sent to them.”

She collected quotes from women who have struggled to break free from their Rae Dunn habit on her blog.

“I spent over $15,000 in 6 months. It consumes my every thought … I even think of it when trying to fall asleep. Nearly cost me my marriage!” a woman named Kim told her.

“It all started with a mug I found at the thrift store … and life as I knew it was over,” someone named Debbie said.

“This addiction will turn loving mothers into cruel monsters!” a recovering Rae Dunn fanatic named Crystal said.

How does Rae Dunn herself feel about the legacy of her art?

Rae Dunn home decor is, of course, named after a real woman named Rae Dunn.

On her website, she describes herself as a “classical pianist, painter, and frequent world traveler.”

“When I first started, my pottery teacher [said], ‘Smooth those out, you want it to be perfect,” Dunn told Bay Area news station ABC30. “And I was like, ‘I don’t want it to be perfect — I want it to look like somebody made it.’ […] I feel like I’m so not a wordy person and I feel like my pottery resembles me — quiet, soft-spoken.”

 She told Country Living that she fell in love with pottery first as a hobby.

“It slowly started taking over my life until it became my life,” she said. “I never expected it to be this insane.”

That mirrors the experience of the devotees to her work, too. She partnered with a manufacturer named Magenta to keep up with the demand for her work, but it blew up. She’s not a fan of her work’s cult-like following, but it’s in the hands of her distributor and her brand’s fervent resellers now.

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