The Erno – A Modernist Story of Espionage

The Erno – A Modernist Story of Espionage

This is the story behind the Erno, which is in our Handcrafted collection that ties into the progressive nature of one of London’s foremost architects and his relationship with Ian Fleming.

Within the imperious shadow of Trellick Tower, the Brutalist high-rise residential tower block in West London that pokes through the city’s skyline, our Creative Director recently discovered a pair of vintage Polaroid Cool-Ray frames in a drawer in the basement of a nondescript optician. 

Polaroid Cool-Ray was a division of the legendary eyewear brand American Optical, the company responsible for bringing sunglasses with polaroid lenses to the mass market in the 1960s. It’s this discovery these vintage frames, which feature a squared oval shape with distinct paddle arms, that’s spurred the creation of the Kirk Originals Erno frame. The newest member of our Handcrafted range, they’re available in dark tortoiseshell and smoke-grey acetate and both come with dark grey lenses.



Given the location of the discovery, we had to name them after Ernő Goldfinger, who was the architect responsible for many of London’s notable Modernist and Brutalist buildings, including the aforementioned Trellick Tower, that today boast listed certifications. 



Born in 1902 in Hungary, Ernő Goldfinger spent 10 years studying and plying his trade in Paris. It was in the French capital where he brushed shoulders with equally well-regarded minds of Modernism, most notably Mies van der Rohe and Le Corbusier. He then emigrated to the UK in 1934, settling in Highgate in North West London, with a wealth of knowledge and grand ideas of a Modernist-looking London. 

The Modernist movement in architecture put forward the idea that form was to follow function, the criterias of which included minimal ornamentation but maximum volume and a sensible and limited approach to raw materials. This groundbreaking idealogy that shook the foundations of centuries of design language gathered momentum around the turn of the 20th century. However, it wasn’t until the 1930s that its significance and impact in Europe became apparent, despite the outcry from purists with romantic visions of their beloved metropolises. 

It was in the 1930s that Goldfinger made a name for himself in London and his first indelible mark was the construction of 1-3 Willow Road in 1938. Three Modernist terraced houses that stuck out from the leafy and and equally sleepy borough of Hampstead, he owned Number 2 and called it home until his death in 1987. It’s now part of The National Trust, and as such, we thought it would be apt to visit it and tie into the progressive nature of Goldfinger’s creative psyche the two new frames worn by our friend Eshan Khali (who by chance is also a fan of the Astrakhan hat that Goldfinger wore in this photograph with Trellick Tower). 



Goldfinger was also (as you might now be presuming) the inspiration behind Ian Fleming’s rotund and rouge villain in Goldfinger. Providing ample drama and amusement in the book that was published in 1959, the film-adaption of Goldfinger was released in 1964. Gert Fröbe was casted as the antagonist Auric Goldfinger and almost stole the show with the sinister quip “No, Mr. Bond, I expect you to die!". It’s arugably the second-most memorable line in the entire Bond franchise and if you can’t guess the first you have homework to do. 

Now, it’s thought that the three homes designed by Goldfinger in Hampstead vehemently vexed Fleming, who grew up nearby, to such a degree that he felt he owed a service to the fiction-inclined world to name his villain after him. And, to be fair to Fleming, a number of quaint cottages had to be destroyed to make way for Goldfinger’s Modernist homes, which would have been quite the eyesore at the time. 

There’s also another theory as to why Fleming used Goldfinger for his villian, and that was because their personalities were at polar opposites to eachother and Fleming realised this following a game of golf with a cousin of Goldfinger’s wife. The Hungarian architect was a full-blown Marxist who later claimed British national status, whereas Fleming was a patriotic purist with leniency towards conservative ideals. He simply did not like him. 



Who really knows for sure is a mystery that should never be solved. But, it was brilliant of Fleming to play God with the fictitious Goldfinger’s physique and bestow him with humouring physical traits. These include being vertically-challenged yet horizontally-liberal to such proportions that they were just about atypical enough to not toe the line with Goldfinger himself. The architect was a burly man from the Eastern Bloc with dark hair and alarmingly chiselled features. However, Fleming’s interpretation seriously irked him and he threatened to sue the novelist but settled for a few signed copies.

In terms of the design of our new frame, the Enro reflects the traits of Goldfinger’s Modernist thinking and Brutalist creations, as well as the original 1960s Polaroid Cool-Ray frames. The shape itself is telling of this, with no ornamentation or sexy curvature on the frame front to be aroused by but sharp, bold lines that are incredibly eye-catching. 



The straight paddle arms, again, further reference this idea, as there’s no need for them to be curved around the ears for aesthetic reasons as there are grooves on the inside to grip the side of the head. The style is decidedly vintage and became a popular feature in the 1940s and through the 1960s. What’s more, Fleming often spectacles with paddle arms, and as did Le Cordusier, which were two pleasing discoveries.




As they’re part of our Handcrafted range, these frames have been made entirely by hand in our workshop in England. No step is rushed nor overlooked, and they’ve all been sculpted one-by-one to have these angular features. You can read more about that process, here, and also see the dark tortoisehell model going through the process. 



We’d like to say a special thanks for Eshan for his enthusiasm with this project, as well as Debra Hurford Brown for capturing.