Jeff Staple still keeps a printout of his credit score from 2005. “669 Poor” is prominently displayed at the top of the page citing factors like high balances and late payments as reasons for the bad credit rating. It may seem like an odd memento to hang on to. For Staple, who is now in his 25th year as a business owner, it’s proof that anyone can build something like Staple regardless of where they start out.

“I want people to realize two things. One is you don’t have to come from privilege or wealth to do this. It helps for sure, but I think there’s a certain resilience when you start from nothing. I’m not saying I came from extreme poverty but definitely not in a position where I got any sort of outside investment,” Staple tells Complex. “After I self-started Staple, I put myself into crazy debt. At one point, I was like $150,000 in debt, maxing out eight different credit cards, because that’s how much I believed in Staple. I was just putting everything on the line to do it. And this credit score sort of proves that.”

Staple’s belief in his label paid off. Many people know him and his brand for its ongoing series of pigeon-themed sneaker collaborations that began in 2005 with the Nike SB Dunk Low and has gone on to include everything from Puma Suedes to Crocs clogs. But Staple’s resume goes beyond gray and orange “Pigeon” sneakers. From 2001 to 2016, he operated Reed Space, a streetwear boutique stationed at 151 Orchard Street in New York City. Before he entered the clothing business, Staple was creating in other mediums by producing album art for Rawkus Records artists like Common and handling art direction for early issues of Fader. His work at the magazine would prove to be a pivotal step in his career path. It’s how he was first introduced to Nike, the collaborator that helped him gain a ton of momentum in the early days of Staple. A quarter of a century later, his brand is still around. What does he credit his longevity to? Consistency.

“I haven’t been the most hyped. I haven’t been the most creative. I haven’t been the most well funded. I haven’t been the most connected, but I would argue to anyone that I’m top three most consistent,” says Staple. “If you’re a great swimmer, it’s the one who can hold their breath longest underwater. And that’s something that I always subscribed to. Funny enough, when I was a kid, I would have competitions with friends to see who could hold their breath underwater the longest. Oftentimes, I would win. I could go, like, two and a half minutes underwater. I used that mentality in my business. Longevity. Consistency. That’s what I was always about.”

We recently caught up with Staple to run through some of his most sentimental items that help tell his 25-year story in streetwear. From his book of business cards to an original Staple ad featuring T-shirts modeled by Mos Def in the Rawkus Records office, check out each item along with some memories from the designer below.