Modern Family's Jesse Tyler Ferguson brings his foundation's neckwear collection to Project Runway, with a challenge all about bow ties

By Jacqueline Andriakos
August 09, 2013 at 05:30 AM EDT
  • TV Show
  • Bravo

Screaming matches, a disappearance, endless tears, a proposal — is this Project Runway or a Lifetime movie? Take out the mannequins and Heidi Klum and you can almost mistake our beloved fashion reality program for a hokey TV drama. Episode 4 cuts right to the chase, opening on an epic verbal battle between Helen, Ken, and Sandro.

“You have no respect, that’s the problem.”

“Really, I don’t have respect?”

“You have to put yourself in my shoes.”

“Why do I have to put myself in your shoes?!”

“Because I was barely safe! Don’t you get that? You never—”

“Never yell at me!”

“Calm the f—- down!”

“You calm the f—- down!” *Middle finger*

Sandro has officially passed the point of no return. Storming down the back stairway of Parsons, shoving past mannequins and production crew members along the way, our irrationally tempered Russian exits the building.

36 hours earlier…

Back at the Refinery Hotel, the male and female designers chit chat about Timothy’s departure. Bradon, Alexander, and Sandro agree that the young Milwaukee designer had hit a breaking point, but Justin is sad to see him go. Tired of being safe, but likely pleased to be returning to an individual challenge, Sandro declares, “This challenge I would like to ask to ask what people want from me.” Hoping for some direction from the judges, he might cool off that temper a bit and heal the hostility towards Zac Posen.

It’s a difficult morning for Jeremy, who received a phone call the previous evening that his husband’s maternal grandmother passed away. He is unable to attend the funeral due to his Runway obligation. Despite his personal matters, Jeremy and his roommates shuffle out of the hotel to brave challenge number four.

The workroom is decorated with dozens and dozens of patterned bow ties as the gang enters to meet Tim, who is sporting one with his always-sharp suit.

“I vomited bow ties upon you,” says…JESSE TYLER FERGUSON! The Modern Family star is as chipper and quirky as we Mitchell Pritchett fans would have hoped. And it’s a very special cause that this week’s guest judge brings to the runway: In the midst of planning their own wedding during the time the episode was filmed, Ferguson and his husband Justin Mikita are partnering their Tie The Knot neckwear with Project Runway through a bow tie-based challenge. The organization features seasonal collections of bow ties for purchase, and all proceeds go to various groups that fight for marriage equality.

Breathe, designers! This is not a menswear challenge. Instead, the bow tie is a “point of departure for whatever it is that you create,” clarifies Tim. Designers can create a look of their choice that incorporates at least one bow tie in an unconventional way. Bradon is thrilled to participate in a challenge supporting the cause, sharing that he would love to marry his partner of 18 years Josh, and have it nationally recognized.

With a suggested budget of $200 and one day to complete their looks, designers begin to sketch and prep for their Mood trip. Miranda plans to use the bow tie on a blouse, in a way that doesn’t sound very unconventional at all. Dom explains a look that is a bit more creative, with plans for a drapey oversize jacket and a dress with an origami-inspired neckline.

When the designers hit Mood more plans begin to take shape. Kate is looking for a silk that is neither pretty nor shiny, while Jeremy opens up about the passing of his grandmother. She will be the inspiration for this challenge, and he hopes that his garment honors her style aesthetic. It’s Sue that plays a worrisome move: With a $404 receipt at the register, she might be the first contestant to spice up this GoBank promotional gimmick compelling money budgeting element in a future episode.

Back in the workroom, Alexander tells everyone how Bradon managed to predict the challenge the night before. Although Bradon’s guess was more along the lines of wedding dresses for gay couples, Sandro is impressed that he nailed the gay marriage peg. “He’s a bruja!” Sandro jokes.

NEXT: It’s too much, it’s too much, it’s too much

Twelve seasons in and there is still something so comforting about Tim’s consultations. No matter how brutally honest his critique is, he always has the best interest in mind for his little designer ducklings. He suggests that Dom focus entirely on perfecting every detail of her dress, rather than rushing to add a jacket to her look. Miranda’s black and white jacket looks a little too matronly with the addition of the pale pink necktie, and Tim suggests adding some sex appeal or pizzazz instead.

Our style mentor Tim is a pro at giving the utterly confused expression rather than an outright look of concern, which is entirely the case with Sue and her double mannequin situation. Instead of one poorly sewn garment, Sue has managed to rough her way through two unfinished pieces. No, they are not complementary pieces in any shirt-and-blouse, suit-and-tie sort of way; She has actually started crafting two entirely separate looks. A black dress with a bow tie “exoskeleton” and length tail of ties, and a Little Red Riding Hood something or other manifesting beside it. The Mood receipt is making much more sense now. Leave it to Sue to put a $400 price tag on indecisiveness.

Sandro picks Top Gunn’s (his new nickname choice, approved by Tim himself) brain regarding the light pink dress with bow tie-suspender-eque pieces attached to the bodice. He fears adding a jeweled clutch from the BELK accessories wall (See? I can product place too, guys) will be too much. Tim says that it’s entirely Sandro’s choice, and he is there to support him. Sandro’s just in broken record mode, repeatedly exclaiming, “It’s too much!” He worries more about getting into a negative confrontation with Zac Posen than remaining true to his aesthetic. But between the lady part-revealing leotard and the Russian vixen diamond ensemble, I’m not entirely sure what his aesthetic is yet. In the wise words of Tim, “You be Sandro, I’ll be Top Gunn.”

Helen doesn’t feel so confident after Tim’s critique, now fearing that her menswear-inspired design isn’t feminine enough to change her approach now. “You want me to walk away because you’re going to burst into tears!” Tim says. And he’s right, because ol’ waterworks politely excuses herself from the workroom to give herself a moment. Better now than the runway, Hel!

Perfectly juxtaposed with Helen’s nervous Nellie moment is Kate’s consultation regarding the equestrian-style shirt and pants ensemble she’s constructing. After Tim suggests avoiding the use of leather in a way that cuts off the leg, Kate mentally edits her plan and decides to create a tie-shaped leather piece as an accent down the side of the pant. Kudos to the Runway veteran.

Once some type of garment is thrown on a model, it instantly appears to have at least a smidgen of potential. Sandro watches his model walk, and the Cinderella pink gown doesn’t look entirely hopeless, except for the giant problem of the random bow tie suspenders slapped on the front. Helen doesn’t know “what the f— she’s doing,” Miranda can’t seem to add sexiness to her design, and Dom fears that the pieces she is adding resemble vaginas. Bradon, a tad behind time-wise, has hopes of finishing a jacket to add to his skin-bearing top before the runway tomorrow.

Everyone take a quick moment and remember Ken and Karen also exist somewhere in this competition before we head to the runway.

NEXT: The perks of immunity

Heidi is looking like Lady Chippendales in a liquid black bodycon mini and a silver bow tie. Many of the designers are also sporting the Tie The Knot neckwear, along with Zac, Tim, and Jesse Tyler Ferguson. Nina wasn’t feeling as festive today.

Although there were several impressive pieces on tonight’s runway, the obvious placement and visibility of many of the bow ties within the designs seemed sloppy and forced. Alexander’s rainbow bow tie fan swooping around the neck of his model looked reminiscent of a tie display at Nordstrom, and Helen, Sue, and Sandro’s garments appeared as if bow tie body braces were strapped to their models before being sent down the runway.

But I certainly wasn’t the only one to notice Helen’s bizarre gown that resembles the mess she sent down the runway two weeks ago. Before dismissing the safe contestants, Heidi stops Helen to warn her that her immunity might have been the only thing to save her this week. Nina is unsure if Helen would have won the week before without Kate as her partner. Before Helen even has the chance to break down into tears, someone who just can’t learn to put a sock in it pipes in with a question.

“I would love to know some notes and comments about my garment,” Sandro says. And as he predicted, his judge nemesis Zac quickly jumps in with harsh critique: “It looks like the walk of shame after an awards show.” Zac fills the void of Michael Kors’ snarky comments fittingly. Zac does compliment the construction of the gown, but notes that Sandro’s taste is questionable. Here is a screen grab if you need a visual:

“You are safe today. You know that, right?” Heidi reminds him, as he gets increasingly hot-headed. Zac asks Heidi if she would ever wear the pink gown, and she quickly replies with a no. And as expected, Sandro doesn’t like that, because this isn’t the What Would Heidi Wear competition, now is it? Heidi dismisses the safe designers and tells Sandro that next time he is in the top or bottom they can discuss his garment.

Remember that face-off at the beginning of the episode? Well here we go. Helen calls out Sandro for being disrespectful on the runway and picking an inappropriate time to chime in. She argues that even after getting ripped apart again by the judges and disagreeing with their suggestion that Kate was the reason she was awarded immunity, even she didn’t cause a scene.

Yelling, fighting, swear words, Ken saying his piece and getting some on-screen time for once — the room gets increasingly awkward. With some Helen tears, Ken insults, and Sandro middle fingers, the Russian is out the door and shoving cameras out of his face on the street outside of Parsons.

NEXT: Let’s all take a breather and check out the highest and lowest scores



And a close-up if you can’t see the bow tie detail…

The bow tie crop top demonstrates his impeccably clean hand-stitching abilities, and the fabric of the jacket and shorts add a texture contrast that Nina loves. Heidi even admits that if she had the model’s body (which from the number of bikini Instagrams she uploads, you would think she does) she would wear Bradon’s look every day. Simple yet intricate, Bradon’s look is wearable and sexy for the daring. Bradon ties the knot with a challenge win!


Despite the optical illusion of stripes on her dress, Dom’s look is adorable and happy. Perfect for a wedding. Nina describes it as a celebration that perfectly parallels the celebration of the Tie The Knot challenge. What does Jesse Tyler Ferguson love? The hairstyle. “Can we just talk about how there’s a bow tie on her head? It’s amazing. Her hair is a bow tie, and it’s on her head!”


It doesn’t surprise me that the designer who constantly whips out show-stopping dresses is a bit more of an amateur when it comes to pants. But with her design and construction skills becoming more and more evident every week, Kate scored a top three spot even after constructing an unfamiliar garment. Nina, with her hip and cool lingo, describes the pants as “sick,” and Heidi raves that it’s fashion-forward and sexy. Although it’s one of the tamer runway looks, the blouse and riding pant are modern and fun, and show us a different side to feminine, Princess Kate.



Heidi claims she is shocked to find out that Sue made this dress. “What a mess!” she says. If Heidi spent an hour in the workroom, the connection between this trail of bow ties and its direction-less designer would be much easier to match. Zac throws at her the K.I.S.S. principle (Keep it simple, stupid). The simple high-collared black gown beneath the bow tie exoskeleton isn’t completely unwearable. But with the crazy appendage of tentacles draped over the gown, it regresses to amateur, unfinished, and incomprehensible.


The homage to his grandmother unfortunately aged his young model, with the grown up, serious red jacket. Zac and Heidi are distracted by the model’s belly button peeking through. I was not immediately scared away by the jacket if edits were made. Maybe without the red sash, a skinny pant, and loose, casual hair, the look could become a bit more youthful.


Miranda missed the mark by not using the bow tie in a clever way (it’s hidden within the shirt collar) and taking Tim’s critique of adding sex appeal too seriously by cropping the blouse. Zac says he’s seen enough of her well-made pencil skirts and hopes to see something else in the future.

NEXT: Missing in action

And now we’ll take a short break and cut to Tim Gunn, with the latest report on Sandro’s disappearance. Tim enters the judging panel after critiques to let Heidi and friends know about Sandro’s backstage feud with fellow designers, and his flee from the building. Nina laughs in awe, and Heidi looks both shocked and intrigued by the latest drama development. Tim will report back when they locate the missing designer.

In the meantime, the judges get up close and personal with the best and worst garments. Tim explains how he encouraged Miranda “sexifying” her blouse, and the designers become even more confused with the “octopus-y” (Zac’s word, not mine) appearance of Sue’s gown. It doesn’t take long for the judges to dub Bradon’s ensemble the winning look, and it won’t be the only win for the prevailing designer this evening.

After learning of his challenge win, Bradon thanks Jesse Tyler Ferguson (he’s a full-name kind of celebrity, am I right?) for inspiring him through the Tie The Knot cause, and proposes to his partner Josh ON THE RUNWAY! The judges are shocked and touched by his surprise, and Heidi requests to be a bridesmaid. This isn’t about you, Klum. Bradon planned on having Josh learn of the proposal when the episode aired, but a Skype session after the runway showed that Josh and Bradon were on the same page, with marriage written all over it.

“I realize you probably didn’t know about the stuff going on in the news today, but the Supreme Court issued a complete dismissal of Prop. 8,” Josh shares. “Will you marry me?” Bradon, of course, says yes, and then tells Josh that technically his runway proposal was first.

Congratulations, Bradon and Josh!

And the happy couple were not the only two to hear yeses. Despite the clear fashion failures on tonight’s runway, a turn of events acts as a lifeboat big enough for all three of the bottom designers. Sandro’s outburst slapped him with an immediate dismissal from the competition, providing the bottom designers with second chances across the board.

Three saved designers, two proposals, and one elimination later, that’s a wrap for the Tie The Knot challenge. Who deserved to be eliminated? Does anyone else hope we see either more (or less) of the designers coasting along in the middle of the pack?

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