It represents the Cuba he left behind. That's how Roland and Lucy Vega see Habana Brand Clothing, their once small, mom-and-pop-type clothing line they started in their North Hollywood home in 2008.
Habana Brand Clothing has since reached worldwide success and a spot in the popular "Sentir Cubano" shop on Calle Ocho in Miami's Little Havana.
"I've always felt like there's something missing, because I'm not there," says Roland Vega, who left Cuba with his parents when he was 4 years old.
His mother worked in a cigar shop, his dad was an artist who later found work with Hallmark when the family came to the United States in the 60s. Vega says his creative juices are genetic and connects the void between his life in the U.S. and the life he left in Cuba.
"It makes me feel like I'm there," he says.
Vega's fulltime job is graphics design, so the skillset came easy for him. He says his wife pushed to grow the Habana Brand line on Facebook and Etsy, before finally establishing HabanaBrand.com.
"Cubans are very proud of being Cuban," Lucy Vega says with a smile. "They like to remember Cuba."
A Columbian herself, she says she's learned to embrace the Cuban pride as well, selling shirts and hats and posters mostly online and at various festivals around Southern California and Las Vegas.
The thawing relationship between Cuba and the U.S. has added interest into the Habana Brand, too. Lucy Vega says the line is bringing awareness to the struggles people in Cuba continue to face.
"It makes it more visible," she says. "What's happening there, we'll have to wait and see."
It's a similar sentiment for her husband, who says he hopes to one day return to Cuba.
"This is a place that's a mystery to everybody," he says. "But there's something about Cuba that gets people intrigued."
Vega says the clothing line has a worn-in look to them. There's a reason for that, he says, that's part style and part truth.
"That's Cuba! It's been beat[en] up," he says.
Vega's dream is seeing his line of clothes in stores in Havana itself, but stops short of being overly optimistic of renewed relations with the island. In his mind he left it too soon, too quick.
"What comes out of it, we'll see," he says.