Anders Holmquist Ran His Colors Up the Flagpole, and Bo, Arnold and Dali Saluted

updated 10/06/1980 at 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 10/06/1980 01:00AM

Bo Derek hoists a flag. Arnold Schwarzenegger wraps himself in one. Larry Hagman flies at least nine of them at a time from his collection of 30. "Everyone should have a personal flag," declares Anders Holmquist, the man putting Hollywood in a flap. The 47-year-old Swede opened his Santa Monica shop, Colors of the Wind, two years ago and now is doing a banner business supplying individual flags. Fashion doyenne Diana Vreeland approves the craze. "Flags are theater, just like clothes," she proclaims.

That is what Holmquist has been insisting all along. "Mine are art and personal statements," he contends. Aside from private customers and festivals, he has run up flags for Pennsylvania Station in Baltimore and
St. Mark's Church in Manhattan, and will do a series of pennants for the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles.

Holmquist's signed creations range in price from $65 for a burgee to fly on the high seas to $600 for a custom-made four-by-six-foot nylon flag. He administers a sort of Rorschach color test to determine the subconscious preference of his customers before starting on most projects. His clients can overrule him, of course, but he heard no complaints from Georgia O'Keeffe over her flag showing a crescent moon rising in a cobalt blue sky, or from Salvador Dali, whose standard is emblazoned with a surreal white crown on a field of blue.

Another patron, King Carl Gustaf of Sweden, already had national colors, of course. But on His Majesty's 30th birthday four years ago, he was presented with a Holmquist flag—a white beam on a green background.

Holmquist's first assignment—given to him by his second-grade teacher in Stockholm—was to sew a Swedish flag. His grandfather fostered Anders' subsequent passion for pennants by taking him sailing. "That's when I began interacting with the wind," Holmquist says, "and understanding about it as a force of life."

Trained as a fashion photographer in Paris, Holmquist freelanced for European magazines, traveling the globe on assignment from Bali to the Arctic. In 1971 he moved to New York, where his father, Goran, now chairman of the Skowhegan School of Art in Maine, had settled (Anders' parents divorced when he was 11).

A friend convinced Holmquist to enter five banners he had designed in a 1969 British flag exhibit, and he visited London to see the show. Excited by all the possibilities, Holmquist returned to New York, gave up photography and went to work in a flag factory for two months.

In 1972 he met painter Andrew Wyeth, who ordered a banner for $250. But business was slow to build, and in 1978 he decided to move to California. "No one thinks about a flag in a snowstorm in New York," he says.

Divorced and the father of two (daughter Eva, 22, lives in Paris, son Tristan, 14, in Munich with his mother), Holmquist is an advocate of solar energy and windmills for power. His shop, started with just $1,000, is located near the beach, where the 6'4" vexillolographer (that's flagmaker) bodysurfs during lunchtime. "Einstein thought his best creative thoughts when he was near the sea," Holmquist explains.

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