Modern Icon – K9 Gear for Extreme Conditions
The “Greatest Generation” of WWII were men and women who gave back to society rather than take from it. The service members who became police officers, pilots, manufacturers, firefighters, business owners…they were the icons of a generation who contributed to American society. Lee Vartanian’s Great Uncle Billy, a WWII B-17 pilot, was part of that generation. Honoring people like him is why Lee’s company is named “Modern Icon.” They make specialized equipment for working dogs – police, military, and those who love the outdoors.
Starting with a rifle sling
Lee told us that his Grandmother was a master seamstress, and anything she was willing to teach him, he wanted to learn. Consequently, he’s been sewing since he was 13 years old. Adding to that a love of climbing means that he understands the need for strength and quality materials in gear. That knowledge is what started him on his career path.
“It all started with a revolutionary rifle sling concept and a sewing machine at the dining room table. During our time spent in the military and law enforcement we saw a need for a product that did not exist. Most slings were too complicated to use, too hard to manipulate, or were constructed of inferior materials. Fortunately, with a background including 15 years of climbing and rope rescue, we had the outside knowledge of the best materials that should be used and how they should be constructed to meet the most demanding standards one might command. ” The Modern Icon website
“A sling should hold the butt stock of a rifle in the pocket of the shoulder. So I made myself one that worked. Then others wanted one too. A sling should distribute the weight of the rifle from the arms to the larger muscle groups of the back and shoulders in the low ready position, and keep the muzzle off the ground when taking a knee.” Lee Vartanian
His new creation was a hit. As he transitioned to the Greenville Police Department in South Carolina, he saw that their slings had the same problems. When he presented his sling to the range staff everyone of the instructors bought one. Then a local gun shop started carrying them and demand increased.
“If I can’t make a product better, I don’t do it.”
As Lee worked with officers that were K9 handlers, he realized the need for gear that was tough enough to handle the extreme conditions a working dog may encounter. Cheap leashes just wouldn’t do for a dog that is trained to take down a criminal.
One night on his way into roll call he asked the handler assigned to his platoon, “If I can make a better leash would you use it?” and the rest is history. What he came up with was so unique that he filed for a patent to protect his design and he has been innovating ever since. He literally transitioned them from “light duty” K9 gear to heavy duty almost overnight. The business grew naturally through word of mouth until it got to the point where he had to decide if his time was better served on patrol as one officer or as a designer and manufacturer providing K9 Handler Teams everywhere the quality gear they deserved. So after 5 years, he left the Greenville PD and focused solely on building his company.
Modern Icon – Military and Police Working Dogs Deserve Better
Lee told us he bought REI completely out of black webbing in the early days and created the kind of leads and other canine products that work better for these high drive dogs. Modern Icon produces collars, leads, long lines, pouches, tracking harnesses, rappelling harnesses, even leads for rapid deployments and many other specialty and custom products.
Lee looks at design completely different than most and is able to combine his experiences, knowledge and sewing skills in a way that others with decades more experience just can’t seem to follow. He says that “Just because someone is an expert at something, doesn’t mean they should design It. I have seen a lot of awful designs from very talented handlers.”He learns from what he’s doing.
“When we started in this, there was no standard for dogs. So where a standard does not exist, we want to go above and beyond what is out there…Dogs can’t tell us what works like a human can, but they deserve the absolute best. So we give it to them.”
And he’s done exactly that.
Made in the USA — Maybe?
Lee told us that unfortunately many companies have labels that are deceiving. Some say “designed in the USA” when they are actually partially manufactured elsewhere and then finally assembled in the US. And some of them, whether inadvertently or not, are funding terrorism.
“We don’t want to fund terrorism, so we have specific requirements for finding the highest quality products.” Lee Vartanian
He’s completely unapologetic for using high quality American made materials. He wants the best for his canine friends. And we’re pretty sure they are thankful for his attention to detail. Semper Fi, Lee Vartanian, we wish you much success!