Stroll through the Sacramento Kings Team Store at Golden 1 Center and it’s easy to be overwhelmed by the lineup of jerseys, hats, sweatshirts, shorts and other sports apparel on offer—it’s nirvana for a Kings fan. Nestled among the usual athletic and leisure wear by heavy-hitting brands like Nike and Under Armour lies clothing created by a small, Sacramento-based company with big aspirations: SWISH AUTHENTICS.
This bespoke clothing line, created in collaboration with the Kings, moved forward last year (along with a similar collaboration with the Cleveland Cavaliers) despite the pandemic and supply-chain issues. The company’s fan apparel—marketed under the Team Issued Collection, including a sweater featuring retro elbow patches and a bomber jacket showing the Kings’ evolution from 1948 to the present—is sold exclusively at the Kings store.
Jason Vu, SWISH’s founder and creative director, describes his design style as a “reinterpretation of clothes” vintage and modern. Focusing on quality, craftsmanship, fabric and fit, he says he wants his clothing to “flow seamlessly into people’s wardrobes” and tell a unique story.
Vu’s family emigrated from Vietnam to Sacramento when he was 3 years old. He wanted to hang out with his older brother and his friends, so he learned to play basketball and became a big Kings fan—just like his brother.
Vu was “immersed in the world of sneakers” in high school and estimates he had 70 pairs at the peak of his collecting days. To support his habit, he worked at Jack in the Box. “My parents hated it because we had no room in our house,” he says. “There’d be shoes everywhere.”
After Vu graduated from high school, his parents encouraged him to get a traditional college degree—in medicine, for example. He wanted to make his mom and dad proud, he says, but also, “I had a passion for fashion.” He earned an economics degree from UC Davis and an MBA from Sacramento State but stayed up nights learning about the fashion world. “Design was everything that I wanted to do, but I had to learn that on the side.” By then, he was working at Franklin Templeton and Target to pay the bills.
He thought he’d eventually need to move to Los Angeles or New York to pursue his career, but he wanted to stay close to family and friends. “I’m proud to be from here,” he says. “Sacramento has always been a little overlooked; there’s not a lot of national attention for fashion.” When he started SWISH in 2017, he wore all the hats. “I was the business guy; I was the designer; I was the production guy; I was the operation guy; I even took our own pictures . . . literally, everything from A to Z went through me.”
Last year, Vu brought in music industry veteran and former Sacramentan Kelvin Chu to act as SWISH’s chief operating officer; they share a love for the Kings. Together they hope to generate a Nike-like success story. But Vu also says he sees everything as a potential design project, and it’s only a matter of time before he starts pivoting outside the sportswear box: Dresses, furniture and, of course, shoes are on the table, he says.