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Relativity Textiles is Breaking the Mold Around the Globe

Erin Minckley Chlaghmo is an artist, teacher, and mother of two boys. Her passion for pattern led her to start her own textile design label, Relativity Textiles, that now has eight showrooms around the world. With a passion for design, teaching, and world cultures, Erin is an entrepreneurial inspiration for women everywhere.

Learn more about how Erin became her own boss, set boundaries to be with her children after 3 PM each day, and created a new line centered around countries around the globe:

What was your “aha moment” with Relativity Textiles? How did you know this was something you should devote yourself to?

Real talk: a few years, I was working with three people: a life coach, my therapist, and business mentor on developing the life I wanted. One day after work, I remember sitting in the parking lot of a McDonald’s in my car, on the phone with all three of them, having a conversation about money. I didn’t come from wealth, so I’ve always felt uncomfortable about success and wealth. It was a really hard conversation.

Finally, one of them asked me, “Do you give yourself permission to be successful and wealthy?” I paused for a long time and cried. Then, I said, “yes!”

Being someone else’s employee, doing a good job, and just getting by was all I knew. But in that moment, I decided to become my own boss and live my life according to my own rules. I gave myself permission to take what I wanted from life instead of waiting to be handed things.

What is the hardest part of running a company?

The hardest part of running a company is isolation. There’s so much to do and so many moving parts, but most of the time you’re spending your time alone managing it all, and everyone else is together doing the work. I try to stay as involved as humanly possible so I don’t feel super isolated or out of the day to day, but it’s a constant balance.

What’s your method for work-life balance?

What’s that? (Just kidding).

For me, work begins at 9 and ends at 3. That’s all I can do. Other people work all the time, but I decided that those hours after 3 PM are all I have with my children. To see them grow. To eat ice cream or color pictures, or watch movies together or read books. If I had to hire a nanny to fill in that time, I’d lose precious memories with my sons. So, I could be more “productive” but I know that I’m buying time with them before they get old and don’t want to hang out with me anymore. So, it all has to get done by 3 PM, or else, it moves to tomorrow’s to-do list.

I am only one person. I can’t do it all. I don’t like to work on the weekends. I don’t like to work while distracted by the kids. One time, I told my son “Just one more minute” while I was on my computer at home, and he responded, “Can’t you email them later?” That was a turning point for me—it may sound crazy, but I shut my laptop and never opened it up again at home. That’s my rule.

Besides running your business, what’s another way that you #BreakTheMold and stray away from the conventional?

I’m an artist, so I’ve never really run with the “in crowd”. I have always gone against the grain of things. I usually just do what I want. It’s been hard on some of my relationships when people want me to do things a certain way or be more logical or practical, but I like to shoot for the stars.

I also did not fit in in high school. I went to a hippy college and got a degree in Middle Eastern Studies in a post-911 world. People wondered what I was going to do with a degree like that, but I was never really afraid to say the things that no one else dared to say, whether with my art or in my speech. I feel like speaking up for those whose voices are not often heard has become a goal of mine.

What's one thing that people would be surprised to know about you?

I am an identical twin. My sister lives in Portland, Oregon and she is also an artist. Yes, we look alike.

What piece of advice do you have for women just starting out in their career?

You deserve more. More than you think. More than you’ve been told. And more than you know right now. You can undercharge or give things away for free, but, a dentist would never give free root canals. Why are you giving free wallpaper installation? Why are you offering your services at half price? Is that attracting the clients you want? (I am giving myself a pep talk as I write this!)

I think all too often women don’t ask for what they deserve. Whether from a lover, a boss or a client. Value yourself and others will value you. Speak highly of yourself. Focus on the good. Focus on the future and what’s yet to come.

What quotation or saying inspires and motivates you to be yourself and #BreakTheMold?

“Bring the world home.”

I like to welcome new things into my life and like to be uncomfortable. Most people don’t want to be—but I love it. I like not belonging, and being in new cultures, trying to figure out how to acclimate.

What’s next for Relativity Textiles?

Next month, I’m launching my second collection of wallpaper. It’s six new patterns that are inspired by the textile traditions of the six countries on the Travel Ban list—Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen. Each country has a rich heritage that we’d just as soon disregard, but that actually influences our daily lives. The paisley! The geometric tile! Many of the beautiful patterns I’m drawn to come from these six countries. It’s a goal of mine to make a place for these cultures by way of their patterns entering our homes, belonging and being at peace with our other objects.

One day, I’d love to also print fabric. It requires more capital than I have at the moment, but I’d love to build up to that in a few years.


Extra Credit

What is the most-used app on your phone—and why?

I’m guilty. I love trolling images on Instagram.

What’s the first thing you do every morning?

I try to listen to a song I love, a meditation, or inspirational podcast. But, normally, the way I’m waking up is with a small human crawling into my bed, who meows at me like a kitten.

What book could you reread over and over?

Maximum Confidence by Jack Canfield. I have it on CD. My best friend gave it to me. It’s about how the root of all success is linked to self-esteem.

What is your go-to bra style?

I love a good Strapless Bra.

Finish the sentence: I #BreakTheMold by: being a rebel.

This post is part of our #BreakTheMold series, where we celebrate the lives and work of trailblazing women. Check out the rest of the series here.

Images via Carolina Mariana Rodriguez and Brooke Hummer Photography.

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