Read on to learn how Modern Family star Jesse Tyler Ferguson is using his bow tie designs to fight for marriage equality — plus what he learned while planning his own wedding. (Article first published in The Knot Gay Weddings Magazine; Written by Kristin Koch)
Okay, we’re super excited to talk to you about your amazing foundation Tie The Knot, which supports marriage equality. But first, we have to know — why bow ties? What made you decide to design your own bow tie line?
I was talking with some friends of mine about an easy, low-pressure way to dip my toes into the fashion industry. I was like, “What’s the smallest point of real estate on the male body that I can design for?” Bow ties seemed like a good fit.
Is it safe to assume that bow ties are your signature accessory?
I love bow ties. I have a vast collection of them that I’ve accumulated over the years, and I do wear them often.
And your bow ties aren’t just about helping men (including grooms!) look stylish — they’re also a way to raise awareness for a cause close to your heart. Tell us a little bit about how they tie into (no pun intended) your foundation, Tie The Knot?
My fiance, Justin (pictured above), had the idea to make this into a more philanthropic venture, so it was the meeting of two really good ideas. The proceeds from the bow ties go to our foundation, Tie The Knot, and we farm it out to the organizations on the frontlines fighting for marriage equality. But the other thing about connecting [my bow ties] to a philanthropic venture was that I didn’t know if I was going to be any good at designing, so it was a safe way to try it. At the end of the day, if they sucked, I could always say, “Well, it’s for marriage equality.” Fortunately, they look good, and it turns out I can say I have a bit of an eye for design.
We love how you explain Tie The Knot’s mission statement on its website: “The goal of Tie The Knot is clear: to advocate for the civil rights of gay and lesbian Americans throughout the United States and to look damn good while doing it.” How have you turned neckwear into a tool for raising awareness and garnering support for marriage equality?
It’s a lighthearted, low-pressure and fun way for people to show their support for marriage equality. My MO has always been I love being politically active and having a voice, but I think people are best changed through humor, not by being yelled at through a bullhorn. I’ll never be that guy with the bullhorn on the corner. That’s been the mission statement of our foundation—do it in a fun, lighthearted way. We’ve been able to use our bow ties to lobby for a gay marriage bill. We actually had a bow tie lobby day in Illinois and people came out to support the bill wearing bow ties. There have also been lots of straight couples who have told us that they bought one of the bow ties for their wedding because they wanted to support the organization, and we have parents who have bought our kids’ bow ties to tell their kids about marriage equality.
Your bow ties have made guest appearances on Modern Family and even costarred with you in Shakespeare in the Park’s The Comedy of Errors in New York City this summer. Are they famous?
The bow ties have made a few appearances on Modern Family. I wore one in the episode that Elizabeth Banks gets married and we [Ferguson and Eric Stonestreet, who plays his partner on the show,] were best men, and in two other episodes. It’s fun to incorporate them into the show. Sofía Vergara is always wearing something from her line on the show or asking them to switch the bedsheets to ones from her line, so why not? And then you can tweet a photo of it and say, “Hey, look, my sheets!” I also wore one from the spring line [while performing] in Shakespeare in the Park over the summer and we sold them at the theater’s concession stands as well. All the bow ties in the spring collection were named after landmarks in New York City that we love and one was named Delacorte after the theater where Shakespeare in the Park is held.
All of the ties have a signature owl logo. We’ve been dying to ask — what’s the meaning behind Tie The Knot’s mascot?
We were looking for a Lacoste-type symbol that represented our brand. We landed on an owl because the fight for marriage equality requires deep-seated qualities that owls possess: You have to be patient, wise, have foresight and focus on the future. It seemed like a proper logo.
Is there a particular bow tie from your line that you love for grooms?
We have a black bow tie with our subtle gray owl logo on it that’s our “wedding bow tie.” But any of our ties would look great for a wedding. Black tie has stretched to mean so many things.
Speaking of weddings, you just finished planning your own wedding — congrats! What surprised you the most about wedding planning?
That each decision is like a Pandora’s box. Whatever item it is — a fork on the table or the structure of the ceremony — there’s always a billion more questions about that one item. That’s been really interesting. We had to use a wedding planner since we’ve been so busy, so fortunately we had someone micromanaging everything.
Did either of you get really into the planning and details, or were you both pretty good about keeping things in perspective?
We both err on the side of wanting it to be perfect but we’re not crazy groomzillas. We haven’t had ideas about our wedding since we were kids, so we’re discovering as we go along and trying to be true to ourselves but without a template to go off of. But, it’s also really exciting to start from scratch and do what we want to do, which is what everyone’s wedding should be. It’s your day — it shouldn’t be dictated by anyone else. We just care about having our friends and family under one roof and having the best party we can.
What has been the best part about planning your wedding?
The planning has been really exciting. Picking out our wedding rings was something we were really stressed about, but once we were there with the jeweler, looking in the mirror with the bands on was a very special moment. And when we finally purchased the wedding rings, that was an insane moment — like, “We just bought ourwedding rings!” Seeing our invitations for the first time was really exciting too. Hearing the excitement and all the support from our family and friends has been really gratifying, and just talking to Justin about how that day will go has been special. We’re just trying to absorb every moment as it comes. It’s been stressful at times, but overall, very special.
Any plans to expand the line and design an accessory for the ladies?
We get Twitter questions all the time about designing for women. I always want to say, “Did you see Diane Keaton? She brought the bow tie for women!” And we just did a fun segment with Cat Deeley on E! wearing our bow ties. It’s an accessory for both men and women.
Okay, so before we let you go, we have to ask you for your bow tying tips. How do you tie one on so it’s not crooked or uneven?
I’m still trying to figure it out. Every time I tie my bow tie it ends up tilting to one side over the course of the evening. That’s the joy of a self-tied bow tie. When it’s a little skewed, it says it’s hand-tied and it’s meant to be a little unkempt. I’m a fan of double-stick tape on the collar.
So are clip-ons a faux pas?
No — not a faux pas. Before I started the line, I didn’t know how to tie a bow tie, so all my bow ties were the pre-tied ones. Now, I can tell that they’re not hand-tied — they’re too perfect — but I still love them. I mean, I have clip-on suspenders. Larry King told me that’s horrible, but I don’t have time to button suspenders onto my pants.
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