It's only February, but the tree outside Twigs' apartment is already blooming with clusters of tiny purple flowers. Tucked away on a quiet street in East London's Bethnal Green, her renovated brick row house opens to a sidewalk littered with petals, and if you stand at her second-story bedroom window, you can see the blossoms blowing in the breeze. Visit at this time of year, and she'll point out that it's the only tree in her neighborhood with the disturbing irregularity of waking up a month early, so that its blooms fall off and die, unable to survive the final inhospitable nights of winter. "It's sad," she says, as though the tree's abortive attempt at flowering were somehow a conscious act of poetry.
Right now, she's kneeling at a floor-length mirror in her room, getting ready for a trip across town to the Notting Hill offices of her record label, XL. Born Tahliah Barnett, Twigs is petite and startlingly pretty, with shoulder-length, wavy black hair and big, round eyes. Her lips almost preternaturally resemble the heart shape immortalized by the 1930s cartoon character Betty Boop, whose plastic, doll-sized likeness is incidentally perched atop the bureau by her door, gripping a silver microphone. Twigs has been studying dance since she was six years old, and while her early ballet instructors deemed her feet to be poorly suited to point shoes, she's got the conscious posture and long limbs that make it possible to pick a serious student of the form out of a crowd (the nickname "Twigs," she explains, comes from her habit of cracking her joints when she stretches). A mug of decaffeinated tea sits beside her, and above her bed, which is freshly made and piled high with pillows in various patterns of floral brocade, there's a frame of rose-shaped Christmas tree lights around a vintage poster for Vladimir Nabokov's Lolita, with the novel's preteen protagonist licking an orange popsicle. Schubert is playing softly from her MacBook speakers; a portion of wall is covered in self-portraits by Frida Kahlo, the artist's single, iconic black brow the lone masculine angle in the room. "Moths are the only animals I will ever kill," Twigs says, showing me a hole on the elbow of her sweater.