The former model had been actively involved in the fashion world up until eight months ago, when she opened an exhibition in Bendigo celebrating the French luxury house Balenciaga.
As a teenager she joined a modelling agency in Sydney, where she did a host of “terrible” jobs, including an advertisement for an ironing board. Her fortunes changed when she learned Mr Hartnell, the Queen’s couturier, was in Sydney looking for models.
She was the only girl who fitted the clothes”properly” and was soon promised a job in London, if she could fund the passage.
At the time the Herald reported on Hartnells’ tour and included a photo of a young model named “Margrette Eckardt”, which included her vital statistics: “35, 23, 35”.
“I sailed out of Sydney Harbour with a big suitcase of homemade clothes, with no contract and no money and a one-way ticket . . . so that was determination,” she later recalled. “My father gave me my wings to fly. Everything I did was to prove to him he made the right choice for me.”
She became one of the world’s most sought-after photographic models – and among London’s highest-paid, earning up to £250 a week. She went on to grace the cover of French Vogue and a host of other magazines.
In 1965, Eckardt married French diplomat Hervé Hutter and moved from Paris to Melbourne, where they had a son, Gaetan. The marriage ended in 1971.
Returning to modelling in 1972, she was appointed beauty director for Revlon. That year, Eckardt interviewed ad man John Singleton for a television special. The chemistry was electric and the couple spent almost a decade together.
Between 1977 and 1978, she hosted 500 episodes of her own TV variety show, and for more than two decades ran an interior design business in Sydney.
Andrew Hornery is a senior journalist and Private Sydney columnist for The Sydney Morning Herald.