The Denver Post - - LIFE & CULTURE - Fran­cie Swi­dler: 303-954-1001, fswi­dler@den­ver­ or @fran­cieswi­dler

Cer­tainly, she knows about work­ing dif­fer­ently: Last year, she cre­ated a dress out of book pages for a project at Rocky Moun­tain High School.

But O’Brien is not just about work­ing with wacky ma­te­ri­als: She also has her own cloth­ing line, Molly El­iz­abeth De­signs.

And she gained early ac­cep­tance into the Fash­ion In­sti­tute of De­sign and Mer­chan­dise (FIDM) in California.

At such a young age, O’Brien’s re­sume is im­pres­sive: She’s al­ready par­tic­i­pated in some ma­jor fash­ion weeks. The first was when she was just a high school fresh­man in Ne­braska, and her sew­ing teacher rec­om­mended she au­di­tion for Omaha Fash­ion Week.

Over the course of four months — in be­tween home­work, classes and de­sign­ing prom dresses for friends and fam­ily across the coun­try — O’Brien cre­ated a 1970s-in­spired, eight-piece col­lec­tion to show at Omaha and Kansas City fash­ion weeks, where she was each show’s youngest de­signer.

“What I wanted to re­flect was kind of that late 1960s early 1970s Coachella vibe. I like to de­sign that with a lot of my sketches, it just fit that era,” O’Brien said.

“Suede, lace, fringe, bell bot­toms. So I chose that as a co­he­sive theme, but I still wanted to put a mod­ern twist on it. That’s where a lot of the in­spi­ra­tion for sil­hou­ettes and fab­rics come from.”

The next year, O’Brien’s fam­ily moved to Colorado, and she set her sights on show­ing at Van­cou­ver Fash­ion Week. She had al­ready been work­ing on a new col­lec­tion: Ath­leisure, black and white, ref­eree-in­spired sporty street wear.

“My sec­ond col­lec­tion was prob­a­bly a lit­tle more con­crete,” O’Brien said. “Like I planned out ev­ery­thing in ad­vance.”

The next thing she knew, O’Brien found her­self ap­ply­ing for “Project Run­way Jr.” and stress­ing out over the rig­or­ous, five-month­long au­di­tion process.

“That was al­most as hard as be­ing on the show,” O’Brien said. “It def­i­nitely trains you for having to go in there and be in that type of en­vi­ron­ment.”

The Project Run­way spinoff for 13- to 17-year-olds fol­lows the same pat­tern as the orig­i­nal: 12 eclec­tic, ama­teur cloth­ing de­sign­ers hole up in New York City for a month, fran­ti­cally com­pet­ing against each other in bizarre and un­con­ven­tional fash­ion-de­sign chal­lenges while rac­ing against the clock and en­dur­ing harsh eval­u­a­tions from fash­ion con­sul­tant Tim Gunn and other in­dus­try celebri­ties.

“You just have to think re­ally fast and think on your feet re­ally quick,” O’Brien said. “And you have to make some­thing that rep­re­sents your de­sign style, some­thing that fits the chal­lenge, but also some­thing that ap­peals to the judges. Fash­ion is def­i­nitely very sub­jec­tive.”

Fast-for­ward to De­cem­ber: Film­ing for “Project Run­way Ju­nior” has wrapped, and a win­ner has been cho­sen, but the show hasn’t aired yet — so O’Brien can’t re­veal much about the se­ries or any­thing about the chal­lenges (you’ll have to watch for your­self ).

But she can say this about the ex­pe­ri­ence: “My fa­vorite part about be­ing on the show was get­ting to meet all the peo­ple, You don’t meet a lot of other kids your age who de­sign, so it’s just re­ally cool.”

Pho­tos by Joe Amon, The Den­ver Post

Molly O’Brien, a 17-year-old se­nior at Rocky Moun­tain High School in Fort Collins, wears her Molly El­iz­abeth graphic tee by dig­i­tal de­signer Pais­ley Green, another 17-year-old from Fort Collins.

Molly O’Brien cre­ated these draw­ings for a dress that Ser­ena Lau­rel wore on the red car­pet at Starlight’s Dream Hal­loween in Oc­to­ber in Los An­ge­les.

Molly O’Brien op­er­ates her fash­ion line — un­der her la­bel, Molly El­iz­abeth — from out of her home.

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