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Sac State’s MBA program set up designer and entrepreneur Jason Vu for a quick rise in the fashion industry

Jason Vu, creator of men's clothing line AUTHMADE, smiles while sitting with his iPad in one hand and electronic pencil in the other hand, tools he uses to design his clothing.
Jason Vu is the founder and creative director of men's clothing line AUTHMADE, which partners with NBA teams such as the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Sacramento Kings. (Sacramento State/Andrea Price)

Like many kids, Jason Vu was into basketball – especially his hometown Sacramento Kings.

As NBA players increasingly used their high-profile platform to show off stylish clothing and arena tunnels turned into de facto runways, however, Vu found his eyes increasingly drawn to the world of fashion.

“The player I really looked up to was Allen Iverson,” Vu said, referring to the flamboyant guard who built his Hall of Fame career mostly with the Philadelphia 76ers.

“He was just so different. He dressed differently. He brought that swagger onto the court with the arm bands and the headband, just the way that he wore his stuff to the games.”

Vu is the founder and creative director of AUTHMADE, a men’s clothing line launched in 2017 that established itself in Sacramento and beyond through collaborations with NBA teams like the Kings.

His clothing skills are largely self-taught, but Vu’s time in Sacramento State’s Master’s in Business Administration program gave him the skills to successfully run a business.

“Going to Sac State and learning about business really helped set myself up to be successful at running a company,” he said.

Vu was born in Vietnam and immigrated to the United States with his family when he was 3 years old, growing up in Sacramento and Elk Grove. In elementary school, he played basketball, which grew his interest in the NBA, the Kings, and, ultimately, fashion. In particular, he was drawn to a then-active clothing line called LRG, whose designer was a fellow Vietnamese American.

“At first I was just really intrigued by the clothes that they were making, so I started being curious and trying to learn who made it,” Vu said. “It really made me believe that, hey, this could be something that I could be successful in one day as well.”

His parents stressed the importance of a stable job, however, so he studied economics at UC Davis to ensure he’d have a fallback should his fashion dreams falter. That program, he said, focused mostly on economic theory. Still interested in starting a business, he enrolled in Sac State’s MBA program in 2012.

Outside the classroom, Vu honed his fashion design skills. In class, he gained the self-confidence necessary for him to eventually pitch his company and negotiate with clients and partners. In particular, he remembers a pitch competition that forced him out of his shell and up onto a stage to present to a panel of judges.

That experience – “one of the best” – made an important impact, Vu said.

“It helped build that character, build that confidence to be able to work with the Kings and then meet the NBA and talk with other organizations, and just be confident in what you do and what you're selling,” he said.

After graduating in 2014, Vu had to decide whether to stay in Sacramento or pursue his dreams in a fashion mecca such as New York or Los Angeles. Ultimately, deciding to stay near his family was easy.

“I never wanted to leave here,” Vu said. “It's great to be successful, but if you don’t have family around you, it's not worth it.”

He remained focused on launching a fashion line. Still a fan of the Kings but not seeing team-branded clothing that he would wear, Vu in 2017 launched Swish Authentics – the original name of his company – with the goal of creating high-end streetwear.

He started by upcycling items such as basketball shorts, taking existing clothing and adding elements he felt made them more fashionable. He conducted “guerrilla marketing” by direct messaging NBA players on Instagram and sending them free items to wear – which several players did – and his work was featured on fashion-related social media pages. He also worked to connect directly with the Kings creative team.

“Going to Sac State and learning about business really helped set myself up to be successful at running a company." -- Jason Vu, founder and creative director of AUTHMADE

In 2018, he finally got a meeting with the Kings, who said if he could make his own clothing rather than altering someone else’s they would consider a partnership. In 2020, that became a reality, and Swish Authentics developed a collection based on the team’s “city jersey.”

The Kings collaboration led to another one with the Cleveland Cavaliers. Vu is now working on collaborations with other teams, with the hope of eventually becoming an official NBA licensee.

He also is looking to branch out beyond sports, leading to the branding change from Swish Authentics, which evokes the sound of a basketball through the net, to AUTHMADE, which emphasizes the authenticity he aims for in his pieces.

It’s a dream come true for the basketball- and fashion-obsessed kid who found a home in Sacramento, gained his confidence at his hometown University, partnered with his local team, and is making a national name for himself as a fashion designer based in California’s capital, not in New York or L.A.

“Sacramento is a great city. I call it home and have been here awhile, and I think anything is possible,” Vu said. “The quote that resonates with me is a quote from (singer, songwriter and producer) Pharrell. It’s ‘You are already that person. Just put yourself in that place.’

“Give yourself the opportunity to flourish and just be seen, and once you have the opportunity, knock it out of the park.”

Jason Vu (left), creator of men's clothing line AUTHMADE, poses with a clothing rack full of NBA-themed fashion apparel items created as part of his brand.
As Jason Vu (left), who has a master's degree in Business Administration from Sac State, looks to branch his clothing line out beyond sports, he says he made the branding change from Swish Authentics, which evokes the sound of a basketball through the net, to AUTHMADE, emphasizing the authenticity he aims for in his apparel. (Sacramento State/Andrea Price)


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About Jonathan Morales

Jonathan Morales joined the Sac State communications team in 2017 as a writer and editor. He previously worked at San Francisco State University and as a newspaper reporter and editor. He enjoys local beer, Bay Area sports teams, and spending time outdoors with his family and dog.

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