Beer, matches and soap used to count among Osijek’s most famous exports. Nowadays the Slavonian city is more widely associated with cool design, thanks in large part to the Lega-Lega label, a range of cute, zany and cleverly packaged accessories and stationery that successfully unites quirky subculture with commercial acumen. The label name is in itself a reference to local street culture – ‘lega’ (short for ‘colleague’) is a specifically Osijek form of greeting, meaning something like ‘hi there!’ or ‘what’s up?’.
Lega-Lega is the brainchild of design studio MIT, a group of local creatives who discovered that they had more bright ideas than they knew what to do with and simply decided to go into production with the best of them. At the end of 2006 MIT made a set of exclusive triangular-based teacups packaged in a matt black box as a special gift for some of their best clients, and were so pleased with the results that they decided to extend their activities into the commercial mainstream.
They started producing own-design T-shirts printed with an imaginative selection of quirky designs and messages, and a range of stationery (notebooks, diaries and so on) sporting an attractive selection of printed, textured jackets. The brand became nationally visible in 2009, when Lega-Lega started selling their products in the Profil chain of multimedia stores. The T-Shirts were packaged in milk-carton tetra-packs, a brilliant stroke of marketing inspiration that conveyed the idea of freshness and caught the public imagination at the same time. Lega-Lega supplied a fridge to each Profil store so that the T-shirts could be stacked in the manner of chilled groceries. Recent additions to the range have included Legić baby bibs and baby grows, and ankle straps for cyclists. The team behind Lega-Lega are committed cycling enthusiasts and are among the key supporters of the Pannonian Challenge – an extreme cycling festival that brings together all kinds of alternative-culture tribes: skaters, roller-bladers and BMX bikers included. Lega-Lega have also helped to breathe new life into the normally sedate world of the drinks coaster, adorning them with the kind of witty graphic designs that owe a lot to the world of alternative comics and graffiti art. One of the best-selling coaster sets featured the Japanac (“Japanese Guy”), a surfing cartoon figure with a mane of flaming hair – profits from the limited-edition set were donated to the Red Cross aid fund for the Japanese tsunami of 2011. Lega-Lega have picked up international awards for their designs and have also become an increasingly visible presence on the Croatian high street, opening stores in Dubrovnik and Zagreb in 2012. Their home base remains in Osijek, where the much-visited Lega-Lega shop occupies the ground floor of a three-storey hothouse of innovation that also includes MIT’s offices and meeting rooms.