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Best in Class: The world's most luxurious products
The Giza 45 linens made by this century-old Italian company are considered to be some of the finest in the world. The best cotton fabric comes from Extra Long Staple (ELS) cotton fibers, i.e. fibers that are at least 1 3/8" long. Longer fibers result in stronger, smoother and more lint free fabrics, and the region of Giza in Egypt is known for producing the world's longest fibers. In the textile industry, Giza cotton is identified by a lot number ranging from 45 to 100, with 45, 70 and 88 being the major ELS varieties. Up until now, the world's best bedding was only made from Giza 70 (as are most of Sferra's other linens). As Giza 45 has historically only been reserved for use in men's luxury dress shirting, Sferra has upped the bar with this collection. Sferra linens have been used in the Vatican and in the White House, where Nancy Reagan selected Sferra's Classico table linens for state dinners.
Queen flat sheets start at $485 at SferraLinens.com BEST HAIR DRYER
T3 Bespoke Labs "Evolution" Hair Dryer
This is quite simply the Rolls-Royce of hair dryers. Voted 2008 Best Hair Dryer by In Style Magazine, it is the hair dryer of choice for celebrity and runway stylists everywhere. Most hair dryers use a simple metal coil to heat up the air, and a fan which then blows that hot air onto your hair. This blast of hot air tends to zap your hair of any moisture, leaving it unhydrated and frizzy. The Evolution uses a ceramic coil, which produces an entirely different kind of heat known as far-infrared heat. Far-infrared heat typically dries your hair in half the time of conventional heat. Plus, the ceramic emits negative ions which prevent all of the water on your hair from evaporating. The water that is pulled away by the ions helps hydrate the hair, reduce frizz and create shine. The Evolution also has Tourmaline gemstones injected into the ceramic - these stones further increase the negative ion count. Another bonus -- at 13.5 oz, the Evolution is very lightweight.
For those not keen on spending $300 on the Evolution, T3 also makes the Featherweight, a $200 model that weighs .5 oz less than the Evolution and has fewer heat/air settings.
T3 dryers come with a 4-year warranty (you must register your dryer within 21 days of purchase), but this warranty is only honored if you buy your dryer from an authorized seller like Sephora, Ulta, T3micro.com or Nordstrom. You can get T3 dryers for a lot less than $300 from various unauthorized sellers at Amazon, but this will void your warranty.
$300 at Sephora.com
Swans Island Blankets
by Swans Island
By 2003, John & Carolyn Grace had received so much effusive press coverage, their small studio on Maine's Swans Island could no longer keep up with the growing demand for the handmade wool blankets Martha Stewart calls "must-haves." Now located in an 18th century post and beam farmhouse on the mainland in Northport, Maine, their studio continues to produce the same blankets that won them a prestigious Smithsonian Blue Ribbon for Craft. The wool, which comes from Maine-raised sheep, is dyed using only naturally-derived colors (blue comes from the fermented leaves of the indigo plant, yellow comes from shavings of the Osage Orange tree). The blankets are woven using traditional shuttle looms and the edges are hand-finished using silk thread. Each blanket comes with a linen storage bag and slats of protective aromatic cedar. Dry clean only
Throws from $395, Queen-size summer blankets from $595, queen-size winter blankets from $1050 at SwansIslandBlankets.com
by Swaine Adeney Brigg
There are those of us for whom the umbrella is merely an accessory afterthought - a cheap, collapsible, plastic-handled affair that requires replacing every couple of years. And then there are those of us who own a Fox, Maglia Francesco, James Smith or a Brigg. Prince Charles falls into the latter category (he owns a Brigg with a Malacca wood handle). Henry Kissinger and Clint Eastwood are also Brigg owners, and it has been said that the governor general of the Falklands surrendered by tying a white flag onto his Brigg umbrella.
Brigg stick umbrellas are all about quality --the handles are made of steam-bent solid wood; the fastener is made of real mother-of-pearl. The runner is bronzed solid brass. The ribs and stretchers are wired by hand. A nylon cover is the most common choice, but traditionalists can even order one in waterproofed silk.
J. Peterman offers a men's black umbrella with cherry handle.
The full range is available for international shipping from the Swaine Adeney Brigg shop in London.
$350 at J. Peterman
BEST MEN'S DRESS SOCKS
Sea Island Cotton Socks
Marcoliani, Dore Dore, Gallo, Falke, Bresciani, Pantherella - the world's finest sock brands are unanimously European. Which is best all depends on who you ask, but a traditional favorite is the English company Pantherella, which is known for its Sea Island cotton collection. Sea Island is a rare variety of cotton that is hand-harvested in the West Indies and is known for its softness and sheen. As with all Pantherellas, the sock toe and body are linked together by hand, so there's no bumpy machine-linked seam running across your toes. This is no easy feat. As Pantherella's Joy Hill told the The Times, "it takes five years training to get up to speed at hand-linking toes as you have to line up 200 stitches perfectly, or the socks are rejected.”
$34.50 at Kabbaz-Kelly
Also available at Woods of Shropshire (UK) - US shipping is £4 (under $8) per order.