Vintage textile scout Joanna Williams is back in San Francisco, digging up inspiration from the past and connecting with local shopkeepers who share her obsession.
SAN FRANCISCO – For someone who appreciates global handicrafts and artisan design, walking into Reliquary is like stumbling upon an unlocked treasure trove. Owner Leah Bershad scours the world for new, vintage, and antique goods that possess a certain worldly, tasteful, eclectic appeal. From Ace & Jig gauze dresses to Moroccan Boucherouite rugs to antique Victorian jewels, each artfully merchandised item feels uniquely special. On a recent business jaunt to the city, I caught up with the stylish Bershad to talk sourcing, weird travel rituals, and where she hangs out in her neighborhood.
Describe Reliquary in three words: Labor of love.
Inspiration behind the shop? I wanted to curate a collection of beautiful things without boundaries. We are mostly a clothing and jewelry shop, but you never know what else you'll find here: folk art, textiles, antiques, curiosities of all types. It's a venue to share all the things that I love.
Favorite thing about your neighborhood? Hayes Valley is so small yet so diverse. In a four-block radius you can find almost any type of shop or restaurant.
Favorite cities for sourcing? Anywhere I haven't been yet.
What are you always on the lookout for? It definitely changes from trip to trip, but I love anything with hands, skulls, eyes, bugs, or hearts on it. Also, diamonds and gold.
Hidden gems in San Francisco? I actually live in Oakland! Tail of the Yak (2632 Ashby Ave.; +1-510-841-9891) is one of my most favorite stores. It's in Berkeley and is just a secret wonderland of beauty. I also love Temescal Alley in Oakland. My husband owns a barbershop here and Marisa Haskell (who sells at Reliquary) and Ali Golden have open studios there. Minds Eye Vintage is a really great, super affordable little vintage shop in the Alley, and Crimson Horticultural Rarities always has some magical plant life. There are many delicious restaurants in the area: Pizzaiolo, Dona Tomas, Burma Superstar (to name a few). Come by on First Fridays for the real festivities.
Current inspirations? I know it's expected, but I really love Pinterest and Tumblr. With all the traveling I do, it is so nice to sit in my living room with my dogs and still have a whole world of inspiration at my fingertips.
Favorite flea markets? If I told you I'd have to kill you.
Favorite thing about San Francisco? That I can live in the woods in Oakland and be in my shop in the heart of SF in 20 minutes. Or in the wine country in 30 minutes. Or on a hike in five minutes.
Favorite way to travel? I like to drive when I can. It's meditative for me. I love books on tape. And that way I never have to check luggage.
Next city you're dying to visit? I want to go to Morocco.
Your current favorite items in the store? We just got in these amazing Boucherouite rugs from Morocco. I am obsessed. They are like abstract paintings made of old clothing. Amazing.
Any travel rituals? When I drive, I like to drink Red Bull. I try never to drink it otherwise, but I love it. Don't tell anyone.
Most recent score? I just found a huge 1920s antique display case from Bon Marche. It takes up the whole center of the store and is absolutely perfect.
Solo traveler or always with a pal? My best friend owns a beautiful store in NYC called Love, Adorned, and we often travel together. When I'm not with her I'm solo.
I travel for the Reliquary.