College student's parody of Millennial culture spirals out of control: 'They were completely feral'

·4-min read

All Anneke wanted to do was poke fun at the “cult-like” following a millennial pottery brand has. It backfired spectacularly.

The TikTok creator, reluctant crafter and recent college graduate noticed a number of viral posts about Rae Dunn, a simplistic home decor brand best known for its white ceramic mugs and containers, and became fascinated.

In the posts, so-called “Rae Dunn women” would pillage displays at their local discount stores to gather the brand’s items as quickly as possible. Some of the women simply collected the merchandise, but others sold it to other collectors at high prices.

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“They were completely feral fighting over that little cart,” Anneke told In The Know. “Like, it’s not even on the shelf yet. It’s wild.”

While procrastinating studying for her exams, Anneke started Photoshopping Rae Dunn products to say, well, things like “gaslight” and “gay” instead of “pour” and “tea.” Her post about her designs went viral on TikTok.

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Commenters loved her work, so she made a second video. She doesn’t have any graphic design experience — it was just “a boredom thing,” as she told In The Know.

Anneke tried to gain access to some of the Rae Dunn Facebook groups, where the majority of resales happen, but she couldn’t get in. So, she resorted to “Plan B” for the next phase of her plan, and started making physical versions of her Photoshopped products to place inside various stores.

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In her first TikTok about it, she sneaked her items into Home Goods, hiding them among the authentic products — a process known as “droplifting.” It’s not illegal, but it is generally frowned upon.

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“The Banksy of Rae Dunn,” one commenter dubbed her. 

Anneke told In The Know she was fascinated with the concept of “art activism” — specifically “culture jamming,” or the alteration of existing imagery to make a point that it critical of consumerist culture. By poking fun at Rae Dunn’s rabid following with pottery made from nonsense words, she was critiquing the “cult-like” following the brand had while pointing out how simple and replicable it was.

Anneke reiterated that she has nothing against Rae Dunn designs, though others have criticized the aesthetic as “cheugy.” She just enjoyed parodying the products and critiquing the fans as a “funny prank.”

“It’s an attempt at minimalism, but it’s not quite there,” Anneke said, in an attempt to define the style of Rae Dunn pottery.

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That is, until things went a little too far. 

So many commenters demanded access to her merchandise, she opened an Etsy shop — and ended up spending most of her days creating Rae Dunn-esque pottery. She’s even had to hire her friends to help out.

Ultimately, her work became so popular, she started having the same problem she set out to critique.

“I’ve gotten messages that were like, ‘I will commit vehicular manslaughter if you give me this one mug,'” she said. “Someone else sent me a one-minute video of them crying after they purchased something because they were just so happy they were able to purchase it.” 

Anneke inadvertently created her own cult-like following in the process of critiquing Rae Dunn’s. 

In order to control some of the swarm obsessing over her creations, Anneke is shifting her business over to RedBubble, where she won’t be responsible for actually making the products, unless they’re custom orders. 

“I’m not really sure what I’m trying to do,” she said. “It’s a temporary thing … A fun thing to do for the summer.” 

Though her craft enterprise fell into the cycle of parody and consumerism and figuratively became a snake that ate is own tail, it wasn’t supposed to blow up like this anyway. Someday, Annake’s parodies will become cheugy, just like Rae Dunn products themselves — and Anneke will be grateful for it. 

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If you enjoyed this story, read more about the “cheugy” aesthetic.

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