Photography by Michael Sharkey
Attorney Justin Mikita and his husband, Modern Family star Jesse Tyler Ferguson, had modest expectations for sales when, in 2012, they launched Tie the Knot, a marriage equality movement charity that raised funds selling whimsical bow ties. But they were crafty: The launch video was also their wedding announcement, and consequently Tie the Knot kicked off with a celebrity bang.
"We thought, Let's start small," Mikita says. The first collection, containing 200 of each of their 20 tie designs, sold out in a month. Since then, new guest designers such as Tim Gunn, Isaac Mizrahi, George Takei, and athletes Scott Fujita, Chris Kluwe, and Brittney Griner have kept the designs fresh.
"The other portion of Tie the Knot that I'm super-proud of is the activist part," Mikita says, "which I don't think Jesse or I thought would be a piece of it at the start." Now the couple has organized fundraisers and public education events in Chicago, Albuquerque, and Salt Lake City.
Mikita had worked for the American Foundation for Equal Rights on the Prop 8 case and was familiar with activism, "but for Jesse," he says, "it was really cool to see him being gratified by doing something he never thought that he had in him -- he never thought of himself as an activist."
Mikita is pairing up with business associate Greg Winner and Tie Bar founder Greg Shugar to launch a line of bedding with "masculine designs" in spring 2015. They're calling it Thread Experiment. "It's like fashion for your bedding," Mikita says.
And spurred on by the success of Tie the Knot, in May of this year, consultant Todd Hawkins and Mikita started Hawkins Mikita, a company that will pair worthy causes with like-minded celebrities (including Jason Mraz, a client). "We'll either work with the celebrity on a cause and partner them with established organizations or help them start their own," he says. "Or we'll work with organizations and help them find ambassadors."
Downtime is for amateurs, right?